NY court decision gives Dems inside track on competitive House districts

New York’s top court handed Democrats a massive win Tuesday, ordering the state’s redistricting commission to craft new congressional maps ahead of the 2024 election cycle as Democrats try to regain seats they lost in 2022. “We are asked to remedy a constitutional deficiency in the 2022 redistricting process that was attributable to the [Independent Redistricting Commission] abdication of its constitutional duty,” Chief Judge Rowan D. Wilson wrote in his majority opinion Tuesday. In the 4-3 ruling, the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission is required to submit congressional maps to the state legislature by Feb. 28. New York has been in the midst of a redistricting saga stretching back to before the 2022 election cycle. Voters in the Empire State approved an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2014 that reformed its redistricting process and prohibited partisan gerrymandering. It created the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission, which is tasked with redrawing congressional lines.  NEW YORK LEGAL BATTLE UNFOLDS AS STATE’S HIGH COURT REVIEWS LAWSUIT WITH POTENTIAL TO REDRAW HOUSE MAP The commission, however, failed to reach a consensus ahead of the 2022 election, allowing the Democrat-controlled legislature to step in and draw the map. Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the redrawn map into law, which sparked a lawsuit from Republicans. A county judge at the time stuck down the Democrat-drawn map before Democrats in the state took the case to the Court of Appeals. NEW YORK’S LEGAL BID TO REDRAW HOUSE MAP COULD DECIDE CONTROL OF CHAMBER The Court of Appeals also struck down the map and appointed a “special master” to redraw the congressional lines ahead of the 2022 election. What soon followed under the new districts were Republicans winning five out of the six competitive House races in New York and flipping four blue seats red. With the ruling Tuesday, the court is ordering the Independent Redistricting Commission to take another shot at redistricting. “In 2014, the voters of New York amended our Constitution to provide that legislative districts be drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC),” Wilson wrote in the majority opinion. DRAFT OF NY CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING MAP ‘ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL’ FOR DEMS “The Constitution demands that process, not districts drawn by courts,” Wilson continued. “Nevertheless, the IRC failed to discharge its constitutional duty. That dereliction is undisputed. The Appellate Division concluded that the IRC can be compelled to reconvene to fulfill that duty; we agree. There is no reason the Constitution should be disregarded.” Elections attorney Joseph Burns spoke to Fox News Digital prior to the court’s decision, and explained that New York has the strongest prohibition on political gerrymandering in the nation, and lamented that some Democrats in the state were working to undo what voters support.  “New York’s prohibition on gerrymandering is the strongest prohibition found in any state constitution in the country. Other states don’t have this. … This is something that was approved by the state legislature, and then more importantly, by the voters. The voters knew what they were doing back in 2014.”  “Fast forward to 2022, the courts upheld what the voters decided. Unfortunately, we have folks who are trying to undo that. I think ultimately this is a story about democracy. The voters made this choice, the voters put this in the state constitution, and it should be it should be upheld,” he said in a phone interview. Burns – who filed an amicus curiae brief earlier this year on behalf of the Lawyers Democracy Fund in support of keeping the map as it is – noted in his interview with Fox News Digital that redrawing the maps so close to the election cycle will either be “impossible” or create a “fiasco.”  “You go back to what happened in 2022,” he said. “We ended up having a special congressional primary in August, separate from the June primary, because the court needed time to redraw the maps. And there’s a number of administrative problems that our local boards of elections are going to encounter. And when you have those administrative problems, that’s when that’s when people inadvertently get disenfranchised. Do we really want that to happen? I don’t think so.” Some New York Republicans have already sounded off about the verdict, including New York Rep. Marc Molinaro.  “There’s nothing fair about this. Dragging redistricting on for years will create more confusion and frustration for voters. We have to get these lines finalized. In the meantime, my focus will be on serving #NY19,” he posted to X Tuesday.  Ahead of the highly anticipated verdict, a group called Stop NY Corruption said Tuesday it would file another lawsuit if the Court of Appeals ruled that the state redraw the lines. “The politicians in Albany want to manipulate your vote. They’re trying to use the courts in order to advance their own political gain. And this is a power grab of the most shameful kind,” said Bobbie Anne Cox of Stop NY Corruption, according to CBS News.
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