Rebecca C. Lewis | City & State NY | Oct, 14, 2021

No it’s not a failure that the Independent Redistricting Commission is divided along partisan lines or if the Legislature throws out the maps, he thanks you very much.

It’s redistricting season all across the country, and in New York, David Imamura finds himself in an unprecedented situation. He chairs the Independent Redistricting Commission, tasked with drawing new district lines with the aid of the public, for its first test. Created through a state constitutional amendment in 2014, the commission represents an attempt to get away from the partisanship that has traditionally infected the redistricting process when the state Legislature alone came up with new maps. Already facing enormous pressure, the pandemic presented a new challenge for Imamura and the commission when COVID-19 led to a delay in census data.

The commission released its draft maps in September to mixed reviews – rather than a single set of lines, it proposed two sets with support split along ideological lines. Already, political observers and headline writers were ready to label the inaugural outing a failure. But Imamura considered that a false narrative. Ahead of the next round of hearings set to begin next week in Buffalo, he spoke with City & State about his thoughts on the potential success of the commission, the fate of a contentious ballot proposal and working across the aisle with Republicans. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.