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Democrat Gerrymandering In New York Threatens Republican Control Of Congress In 2024

New York Democrats’ new map turns one competitive district more reliably blue and gives Democrats a new advantage in a Republican’s district.

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Republicans could lose their narrow majority in the House come November — especially if Democrats get their way in New York.

Democrats in the Empire State rejected a proposal Monday for a new congressional map drawn by the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). New Yorkers passed a constitutional amendment in 2014 creating the commission and tasking it with drawing new maps every 10 years. The commission’s map would have slightly altered the 2022 map drawn by a special master that helped Republicans flip four seats. Republicans currently hold 10 of the state’s congressional seats, while Democrats hold 16.

Republicans previously held an additional seat until they joined with Democrats to oust George Santos in December. Former Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi then filled Santos’ seat in a special election.

Instead of accepting the commission’s map, Democrats proposed a new map and adopted it on Wednesday, with Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul signing the proposal Wednesday afternoon.

The new map leaves Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ seat alone but extends Suozzi’s toss-up district to pick up more Democrat ground, Gothamist reported.

Santos won the district in 2022 by nearly eight percentage points, despite President Joe Biden winning the district in 2020 by eight points. Under the new map, Suozzi’s district would be reliably more blue, reflecting an attempt to turn one of the state’s competitive districts into a Democrat stronghold.

The new map also targets freshman Republican Rep. Brandon Williams’ district by adding Auburn and Cortland, both of which lean Democrat. While still perhaps competitive, the new changes leave Williams’ district with a Democrat advantage. And while Republicans may be able to breathe a sigh of relief for other seats like Malliotakis’, it’s only short-lived.

If Republicans decide against taking the newly adopted map — which Democrat supermajorities in both chambers passed — to court, Democrats will keep chiseling away at Republican districts, leaving Republican New York voters even more at the mercy of Democrats than they already are.

Democrats Played the Long Game

In 2023, 10 Democrats voted down Justice Hector LaSalle, whom Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated to serve on the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Some Democrats viewed LaSalle as not being left-wing enough.

Democrats instead confirmed Judge Rowan Wilson, an associate judge on the state’s highest court whom The New York Times described as a “liberal-leaning jurist,” as the court’s chief judge. Wilson was a familiar face for Democrats, having dissented in the 2022 case regarding the redistricting fiasco that shunted hopes Democrats had of holding onto more congressional seats.

In a 4-3 decision in 2022, the Court of Appeals ruled that Democrats’ proposed redistricting map was unconstitutional and drawn with partisan intent. The Democrats’ map sought to create 20 safe seats for Democrats and just four for Republicans, with two toss-ups, after the bipartisan commission deadlocked. Republicans alleged the map was unconstitutional and violated a 2014 state law prohibiting partisan gerrymandering.

Wilson dissented, claiming no factual evidence was presented to show gerrymandering occurred and that Republicans did “not meet the standard to declare the 2022 redistricting plan unconstitutional.”

The court ultimately ruled that the only remedy was for another map to be redrawn by a neutral special master. But the move by Democrats to reject LaSalle and instead confirm Wilson was tactical.

In December 2023, the Court of Appeals, with Wilson at its head, ordered a new map to be drawn and argued the 2022 ruling only applied to the 2022 congressional election. That decision was prompted by a second suit, paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and argued by the Elias Law Group, the firm of Russia collusion hoaxer Marc Elias. Two years ago, Elias was smacked down by a federal judge in New York for “a long shot try at having the New York primaries conducted on district lines that the state says are unconstitutional.”

As The New York Times put it, the December ruling “offers Democrats a new weapon to wrest control of the House from Republicans in 2024,” as it would “ultimately empower the Democratic-led State Legislature to reshape the contours of the state’s 26 congressional districts.”

The redistricting commission is bipartisan, but after the December ruling, Democrats used their supermajority control in the state legislature to reject the map anyway and draw up their own map, which ultimately hurts Republicans.

Democrats Set Their Sights on the Courts

To make sure their hold over New York was ironclad, Democrats also passed legislation limiting which courts Republicans could raise election challenges in — and are now fast-tracking legislation that would include redistricting maps.

In October 2022, Republican Judge Dianne Freestone of Saratoga County halted the counting of absentee ballots after ruling the Democrat-led legislature usurped the state’s Supreme Court by passing a law that no longer allowed the court to declare a ballot invalid. After her ruling, Democrats passed legislation to limit election cases to four courts in liberal areas.

That legislation, signed by Hochul in 2023, permits election law cases to be heard in one of four state Supreme Courts in either New York County, Albany County, Westchester County, or Erie County, all of which lean left.

The assembly voted Wednesday to pass a similar bill mandating apportionment issues (and therefore redistricting issues) must also be brought in one of the same four courts. The bill is now on its way to Hochul’s desk, where it’s more than likely to be signed. Once the legislation is signed into law, if Republicans choose to sue over the newly adopted maps, they will be forced to sue in one of those four left-leaning courts, posing yet another uphill battle for the GOP.


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