ALBANY — The last round of congressional redistricting in New York began with promises of reform, a nonpartisan process that would finally end years of gerrymandering widely mocked for creating outlandish districts to protect incumbents.
It ended after a year of political bickering, failure to enact changes and Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats finally unable to agree on congressional maps to account for the loss of two seats.
That failure to come to agreement sent the process to a federal court, where a magistrate took just two weeks to oversee the drawing of new maps greeted by good government groups as models of how districts should be created: compact, contiguous, competitive and representative of their populations.
In the election, the congressional delegation in the heavily Democratic state — reduced from 29 to 27 seats by low population growth — was virtually unchanged by the 2012 election. Democrats took two seats from Republicans, and Republicans took away one. That left 21 Democrats and six Republicans representing the state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1.
Nationally, Republicans built an advantage when they drew new boundaries for House districts in key states after the 2010 Census. Geography and gerrymandering helped them hold onto a 33-seat majority in the House despite widespread GOP losses in the 2012 election.
In New York, courts had been involved in the three previous rounds of redistricting, but only in limited ways to consider challenges to district lines drawn by lawmakers.
Many districts given tortured shapes to capture incumbent-friendly voters survived, including the famous so-called fishhook district that ran in a long line from the Adirondacks along the eastern border all the way to the mid-Hudson Valley and wrapping around the Democrat-leaning Albany area into the northern Catskills. The district had been in Republican hands since early last century before now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand defeated the incumbent in 2006.