A New York court ordered Thursday that the state’s congressional maps be redrawn, setting up a big potential win for Democrats who could ultimately redraw themselves into a handful of seats currently controlled by Republicans.
After the state independent redistricting commission deadlocked repeatedly, New York’s Democratic-controlled state legislature in 2022 took over the process to draw the maps themselves, creating lopsided advantages for their own party. Republicans sued, and the legislature was eventually stripped of its map-drawing abilities. The courts then picked a neutral expert to draw the maps instead, creating highly competitive districts — to the chagrin of Democrats, who’d lost one of their best chances to draw up a maximal gerrymander and eke out extra seats to offset aggressive Republican gerrymanders in other states.
Now, the appellate division of the state Supreme Court (oddly, not the highest court in the state) is ordering that the commission draw the maps anew, finding that the neutral special master’s map that governed the 2022 midterms — under which Republicans did extremely well, helping their party win the House majority — was only temporary.
“The right to participate in the democratic process is the most essential right in our system of governance,” writes Justice Elizabeth Garry for the majority. “The procedures governing the redistricting process, all too easily abused by those who would seek to minimize the voters’ voice and entrench themselves in the seats of power, must be guarded as jealously as the right to vote itself; in granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design.”
Observers expect the independent commission to deadlock again along party lines, again throwing the process to the Democratically controlled legislature. There, if lawmakers manage to stay within the bounds of legal redistricting, they could still craft a map that would make reelection very difficult for a handful of vulnerable Republican representatives.
Before then, though, the decision will likely be appealed to the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals. It’s the same court that ruled Democrats’ old hijacking of the mapmaking process both an illegal gerrymander and a violation of the proper process. However, the court’s makeup has changed and it has become more liberal since then.
If Democrats do ultimately win back the right to craft the congressional maps, they could squeeze out a handful of seats from a state that is one of their most solidly blue bedrocks, a huge boost as they seek to flip House control in 2024.
Read the opinion here: