New York's high court orders new congressional maps as Democrats move to retake control of US House
New York’s highest court on Tuesday ordered the state to draw new congressional districts ahead of the 2024 elections, giving Democrats a potential advantage in what is expected to be a battleground for control of the U.S. House.
The 4-3 decision from the New York Court of Appeals could have major ramifications as Democrats angle for more favorable district lines in the state next year. Republicans, who won control of the House after flipping seats in New York, sought to keep the map in place.
The state’s bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission will now be tasked with coming up with new districts, which will then go before the Democrat-controlled Legislature for approval. The court ordered the commission to file a map no later than Feb. 28, 2024.
“In 2014, the voters of New York amended our Constitution to provide that legislative districts be drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission,” the decision reads. “The Constitution demands that process, not districts drawn by courts.”
Democrats sued to have last year’s maps thrown out after their party lost a handful of seats in the New York City suburbs and handed control of the House to Republicans.
The case came after Democrats in the state bungled the redistricting process for the 2022 elections, and along with what many considered political miscalculations at the top of the state ticket, drew blame for the party’s loss of the House.
The maps used last year were supposed to be drawn by a bipartisan commission that was established by voters to stop partisan gerrymandering of districts. But the commission, which is made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, failed to reach a consensus and eventually gave up.
The state Legislature then stepped in and drew its own map, which was set up in a way to give Democrats a major edge by cramming Republican voters into a few super districts, diluting GOP voting power in the rest of the state.
But a legal challenge stopped the Democrats’ map from moving forward and the Court of Appeals ruled that the state didn’t follow proper procedure in adopting the maps.
Instead, the court had an independent expert draw a new set of lines that, along with strong turnout from the GOP, led to Republicans flipping seats in the New York City suburbs and winning control of the House in 2022.
Democrats then filed their own lawsuit to stop last year’s maps from being used in 2024, with the case going all the way to New York’s highest court. They argued that the court-drawn map was never meant to be used in more than one election and that the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission should have another opportunity to draw the maps.
Republicans have argued the districts are politically balanced and should not be discarded.
Democrats have dedicated major financial and campaign resources to retake districts in New York next year. Republicans are aiming to hold onto the seats, focusing on issues such as crime and the arrival of migrants that they hope will animate suburban voters.
Statement from Ken Jenkins, Chair of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission regarding today’s decision from the Court of Appeals:
“We are pleased with the Court of Appeals’ decision and look forward to getting back to work with our colleagues as soon as possible to ensure that New York’s voters receive the benefit of the historic redistricting reforms they voted for in 2014.”
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