Apr 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New York's highest court voids Democratic-drawn district maps

Photo of a statue of a person riding a horse positioned in front of the New York state capitol
The New York State Capitol is seen on Aug. 11, 2021, in Albany. Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

The New York State Court of Appeals voided Democratic-drawn congressional and state Senate maps on Wednesday, ruling that Democratic leaders violated the state Constitution by ignoring the will of the voters.

Why it matters: The decision, which is not subject to appeal, is a defeat for Democrats, whose chances of holding onto their slim majority in the House are dwindling.

  • 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.
  • The court has now ordered a court-appointed special master to draw up replacement lines for the midterms, meaning party primaries for the congressional and State Senate districts will likely be postponed from June until August.

What they're saying: "Through the 2014 amendments, the people of this state adopted substantial redistricting reforms aimed at ensuring that the starting point for redistricting legislation would be district lines proffered by a bipartisan commission following significant public participation, thereby ensuring each political party and all interested persons a voice in the composition of those lines," Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote for the four-judge majority.

  • "[T]he enactment of the congressional and senate maps by the legislature was procedurally unconstitutional, and the congressional map is also substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose."
  • "The citizens of the State are entitled to a resolution that adheres as closely to the constitutional process as possible," DiFiore added.
  • "While we are disappointed with the Court's ruling, we remain confident in Democratic victories up and down the ballot this November," New York State Democratic Party Chairman Jay S. Jacobs said in a statement.
  • "While certain district lines may change, what does not change is our Party's record of results which contrasts clearly with the Republican Party's radical agenda to drag the state backward."

Worth noting: "The court’s findings could also undermine Democrats’ attempts to position themselves as the party of voting rights and could cast their attacks on Republican gerrymandering efforts as hypocritical," the New York Times writes.

Context: To combat gerrymandering, a 2014 voter-backed constitutional amendment established a 10-member commission, which would be split equally along party lines, to present a map to the legislature.

  • Infighting caused the commission to submit two maps this year, 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 its own after the commission was unable to draw up a revised proposal.
  • A group of GOP-backed voters sued the state after the new map was approved.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from New York State's Democratic Party Chairman.

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