Democrats’ hopes in New York’s home races hurt by new district maps

New York courts on Monday unveiled a list of congressional districts that would loosen Democrats’ grip on key House seats and make it easier for Republicans to participate in this year’s midterm elections.

The map drawn by a special court-appointed master tasked with rolling out a partisan gerrymander, undoubtedly provided a less favorable playing field for the Democrats than that originally adopted by the Democratic State Legislature, and recently invalidated as a gerrymander partisan by the highest court in the state.

The replacement would radically reorganize loyal Democratic neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, moving some longtime incumbents and drawing others into a single district in a way that could pit them against each other or cause one to take his retirement.

For example, longtime Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, both powerful committee leaders in Washington, have been lured into a single district that stretches across Manhattan.

The map also created a potentially awkward situation for Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the fifth House Democrat, by cutting off Mr. Jeffries’ neighborhood from the district. He can still represent the district; the residency requirements only require Mr. Jeffries to live in New York State.

The new map would also eliminate swaths of Democratic-friendly areas that the Legislature had added to Republican seats in Staten Island and Long Island, restoring them as marquee districts rather than Democratic pickup opportunities.

Jonathan Cervas, the court-appointed special master, said his map would produce eight competitive House districts, compared to just three competitive seats he estimated the Democrats map would have yielded.

A Steuben County Supreme Court judge overseeing the case, Patrick F. McAllister, was expected to approve the additional state Congressional and Senate lines by Friday. Its approval would officially end a protracted and embarrassing legal saga that has left the decade-long redistricting process in limbo for months.

Public interest groups celebrated the result. They said that by striking down the Democratic maps as unconstitutional, the courts had finally upheld the will of New York voters, who in 2014 passed a constitutional amendment to remove partisan political motivations from the mapping process.

Democrats were furious, not least because of the impact of the new cards on this year’s fight for control of the House of Representatives.

Party leaders in Albany and Washington were counting on New York to use this year’s redistricting process to make meaningful gains and offset those of Republicans. The map approved by the Legislative Assembly and signed into law in February would have given Democrats a clear advantage in 22 of 26 seats.

Political analysts predicted on Monday that the new court-appointed replacements could leave Democrats fighting to keep the 19 seats they currently hold in the current political environment and allow Republicans to add to their overall advantage in the House. at national scale.

The end results promised to make New York an anomaly in a nation of increasingly gerrymandered states. Many states have used redistricting this year to reinforce the dominance of one party or the other, but New York – one of the largest Democratic-run states in the country – is now expected to retain and potentially even add seats. competitive.

Republicans, who have not been shy about gerrymandering in states they control, first challenged the legality of the Congressional and state Senate maps in February, just after they were signed into law.

The New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled in late April that the maps were unconstitutional on two grounds.

First, the justices said House Democrats violated the mapping process set out in the 2014 Constitutional Amendment by saying they had no authority to pass new maps after the failed the state’s independent redistricting commission. The court also found that the Congressional map violated the constitutional amendment’s explicit prohibition on partisan gerrymandering.

Democrats had vigorously contested both charges, arguing in court that the Congressional and state Senate lines they drafted were legal and broadly reflected changing populations in New York. However, the decision of the Court of Appeal was final.

The judges ordered Mr. Cervas to quickly recruit replacements. Justice McAllister then postponed the congressional and state Senate primaries from June to August to accommodate the changes.

Democratic lawmakers complained bitterly that they weren’t allowed to try to fix the cards themselves and didn’t receive more input in the fast-track replacement process.

Judge McAllister allowed only one hearing at a courthouse in rural Bath, New York, five hours from New York, for voters and interest groups to give their opinions. Mr. Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University who also advised Pennsylvania lawmakers on the development of new maps this year, worked quickly, delivering new maps in just weeks.

Mr. Cervas’ map removed one seat from the Upstate New York House altogether, to reduce the state’s delegation from 27 members to 26. New York had to get rid of the seat after its population failed to keep pace with growth in other states in the 2020 census, continuing a trend that has been going on for decades.

Notably, Mr. Cervas also tweaked one of the most dramatic changes Democrats implemented before the courts invalidated their map. The Legislature had merged ultra-liberal Park Slope into a historically rooted neighborhood on Staten Island, turning a swing New York neighborhood currently held by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican, into an excellent Democratic pick-up opportunity. The lines proposed by Mr. Cervas still take the district to South Brooklyn, but would add less liberal territory.

At no time did the courts invalidate the new Assembly District lines that had been passed by the Legislative Assembly with bipartisan support.

Last week, Justice McAllister rejected an attempt by several politicians to intervene in the ongoing legal dispute to try to have those maps invalidated as well. The politicians filed a new lawsuit in Manhattan state court on Monday in an attempt to re-present their case in a different venue, but it was unclear they would get a more sympathetic hearing.

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