New York Democrats got a huge win in appeals court on Wednesday when the congressional district map used for the 2022 midterm elections was thrown out and a new map was ordered to be drawn. The result will almost certainly be a map that could cost the Republicans the four seats they gained in 2022 after a map was drawn by a court-ordered neutral observer.
New York had set up a redistricting commission of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. But the attempt to agree on a new map was a failure when the commission devolved into a partisan deadlock. The Democratic legislature then advanced its own map that would have destroyed the Republican Party in the state.
Republicans took the map to the state’s appeals court claiming a massive gerrymander, and in April of last year, five judges agreed.
“Democratic leaders in the legislature drafted the 2022 congressional redistricting map without any Republican input, and the map was adopted by the Legislature without a single Republican vote in favor of it,” the majority decision from five judges said.
The map drawn by the Democratic legislature would have given the Democrats 24 of 27 congressional seats. Democrats had not only gerrymandered the maps impermissibly, said the appeals court, but they also violated the 2014 redistricting procedures in the Constitutional amendment that authorized the formation of the commission.
The court appointed a neutral observer who drew a map that would “maximize competition.” The result enraged Democrats both in New York and nationally because the national party had been counting on the gerrymandered map to maintain control of the House.
But now, Democrats claim that the map drawn by the neutral observer was a “temporary fix” and not meant to be a permanent resolution.
If Thursday’s ruling stands, both parties believe Democrats could conceivably draw maps that pass legal muster while making re-election almost impossible for incumbent Republicans like Representatives Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro in the Hudson Valley, and Anthony D’Esposito and George Santos on Long Island and in Queens, among others.
New Democratic seats in New York could help offset gains Republicans are expected to make in North Carolina, where a newly conservative top court is allowing the party to replace a more neutral map.
The result will be that the bipartisan commission will once again look to find an acceptable map for both parties. Given what’s transpired previously, that would be a bad bet. The commission is expected to be deadlocked once again with the final, final word on the map ending up once again with the state legislature. And this time, the redistricting process will have a legal backing for destroying the state GOP.
Though the commission would have the first shot at drawing the new maps under Thursday’s ruling, both parties expected the evenly divided panel to deadlock again. That would send the final mapmaking authority back to the Legislature — only this time with the blessing of the courts.
Republicans are trying to block that possibility. A lower court judge sided with Republicans and dismissed the suit last September.
“New York Democrats are attempting a blatant partisan power grab thinly disguised as a court case,” said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm. “Republicans will appeal to protect the will of the voters of New York, and we will fight to hold the line in the Empire State.”
With all these legal shenanigans and the map clearly headed for the Supreme Court, it will be interesting to see where the high court comes down. The justices don’t like interfering in the partisan wrangling that swirls around elections. But in this case, with the blatant gerrymandering by New York Democrats, they may feel compelled to side with the Republicans.