Apr 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New York judge strikes down Democratic-led district maps

Photo of the New York state capitol building, with the American and New York flags flying in front

The New York state capitol in Albany. Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

A New York judge on Thursday struck down Democratic-drawn congressional and state legislative maps, ruling that they reflect partisan gerrymandering and thus violate the state constitution.

Why it matters: The decision puts a dent in Democrats' hopes to hold onto their slim majority in the House. The state's Democratic leaders have already said it plans to appeal, which will temporarily put Thursday's decision on hold until the state appeals court takes it up, the Washington Post reports.

  • New York Democrats had drawn a congressional map that could give them up to 22 seats in total. Republicans, who currently hold eight of the 27 seats, could be reduced to four.

Context: In efforts to counter gerrymandering, a 2014 voter-backed constitutional amendment established a 10-member commission that would present a map to the legislature. The commission would be split equally along party lines.

  • Due to infighting, however, the commission ended up submitting two maps, one drawn by the panel's Democrats and the other by the panel's Republicans.
  • The Democratic-controlled state legislature rejected both maps and drafted their own after the commission was unable to produce a revised proposal.
  • A group of GOP-backed voters sued the state shortly after the new map was approved.

Details: Acting state Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ordered the New York legislature to draw bipartisan maps by April 11.

  • The maps must receive "a reasonable amount of bipartisan support" among both parties in the state Senate and Assembly, McAllister said.
  • A court-appointed independent map drawer will take over if the maps don't meet the requirements.

What they're saying: "In a democracy, it is rare if ever that one party has all the right answers and all the right policies," McAllister wrote in the opinion. "If gerrymandering is allowed to occur then certain groups of voters will be discriminated against and become disenfranchised."

  • "This court finds that by enacting the legislation in November of 2021 the legislature made it substantially less likely that the [bipartisan commission] IRC would ever submit a bipartisan plan when the senate, assembly and governorship are all controlled by the same political party."
  • A spokesperson for the New York state Senate Democrats did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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