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Deadline approaches for pivotal vote on redistricting; Senate, Assembly majorities unlikely to meet timetable for submitting bills

This is a pivotal week in New York for the redistricting process that will play a critical role in how the state is governed and how its politics operate for the next decade.

And it appears the process will get longer, and State Senate and Assembly majorities won't meet their own timetable of voting on new state legislative and congressional district lines Thursday. A vote by then would require redistricting bills to be submitted by midnight tonight.

Disagreements on Friday made it more likely the vote will be delayed by a few days, according to two state officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Also this week, a federal magistrate judge is convening lawyers for the State Senate's Republican majority and the Assembly's Democratic majority in an effort to hasten the process. Redistricting is colliding with a federal court order to move primary elections from September up to as early as June.

After a series of public hearings, the redistricting bill is expected to have different legislative lines than proposed earlier this year. Most attention is on the sharply partisan State Senate, which is divided by just one vote, rather than the Assembly, where Democrats have a comfortable 95-51 majority.

On the congressional front, New York will lose two seats, based on slower population growth than other states. One upstate Republican seat and one downstate Democratic seat are expected to be eliminated.

The process is intended to make sure communities of similar racial and ethnic makeup get a clear voice in the State Legislature and Congress, but good-government groups said the proposed district lines drawn by the Legislature's majorities and released this year are again tools by the majorities to protect and expand power.

"They send me these lines, I am going to veto these lines," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vowed last week. He referred to the election district lines proposed before a second round of public hearings with often critical input from citizens groups. "These lines are not fair. They are hyperpolitical."

Cuomo, a Democrat, won't say what needs to change for him to support the new districts, which are important for his close allies in the Senate's Republican majority to keep their 32-30 seat edge in the heavily Democratic state. He wouldn't even say how he felt about the Republicans' proposal for a 63rd seat, which could help them maintain control.

A Cuomo veto would send the issue to the courts.

Republicans defend their proposed district lines, which include the chamber's first district that would be dominated by Asian-American voters. They note the proposed additional seat is forced by population growth from Saratoga County through Albany County's southern suburbs, which will still have more Democratic voters.

Further, they said that State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens -- the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee and a key fundraiser who found himself living a block and a half outside what has been his district -- was unintentionally cut out of his own district because of the shifting populations and so that Asian-Americans could have their best shot at electing an Asian-American senator.

Gianaris, who describes Republicans' actions as "petty," adds, "They are pulling every trick in the book just to give themselves a fighting chance." He welcomes the federal magistrate judge's meeting today that could lead to a judge designating a "federal master" to make sure the election district lines are drawn more fairly.

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