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Democrats’ Gerrymandered NY Map Suffers Second Legal Defeat in Appeals Court

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A New York Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the Democrat’s gerrymandered map is illegal under state law and that it violates the state’s constitutional protections against partisan gerrymandering. The court’s decision reaffirms an earlier sentence by a lower court, but the issue is likely to go to New York’s highest court, which will ultimately decide the fate of the state’s congressional map.

The panel of judges (four appointed by Democrats and one by a Republican governor) was divided over the issue, but it concluded that NY Democrats draw the redistricting maps to “discourage competition and favor Democrats” and argued that the plaintiffs “proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Legislature acted with partisan intent.”

The decision by the appellate court is an important win for NY Republicans, who have been accusing the approved congressional maps of brazen gerrymandering since they were passed by the state legislature and signed into law in February. It has been estimated that if the map approved by Democrats got into effect, the Democrats could comfortably win between 77% and 85% of the total state’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who is one of the GOP lawmakers most affected by the new maps said to El American that “Two different courts have now said Governor Hochul and the Democrat-controlled legislature broke the law and drew an unconstitutional Congressional map in a blatant attempt to tilt the scale in the upcoming elections, end NYC’s bi-partisan representation in Congress and silence the voices of conservative New Yorkers such as those residing in Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn. We are encouraged by the action of both courts and we await the new district map.”

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The maps signed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul were deemed to be illegal by a NY appellate court (EFE)

Democrat’s gerrymandered map was set to harm Republicans from the start

Gerrymandering has been a hotly debated issue in the history of American politics, however, the policy debate became more fierce over the last decade as Democrats accused Republicans of gerrymandering their way toward congressional majorities. As part of the debate over the issue, New York passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting partisan gerrymandering and setting up a system where an independent commission, composed of ten members appointed by both Democrats and Republicans, would be the responsible for drawing the new maps.

This year was the first time when this novel system would be adopted in the redistricting process, and the process failed spectacularly. The independent commission failed to reach an agreement and sent two different maps to the State Legislature, both of which the Democratic-controlled legislature voted down. As the independent commission said it will not send any new maps to the legislature, the state assembly decided to draw their own maps without any type of public hearing or scrutiny.

The end result left Republicans at a clear disadvantage, and Democrats would be able to win up to 85% of the seats in a state where 60% of voters cast their ballots for Biden. A clear example of the gerrymander was the way Rep. Malliotakis’ district was drawn to remove parts of Brooklyn that are more conservative-leaning, including neighborhoods that are more liberal, and expand Rep. Nadler’s weird-looking 10th district south, to some precincts that were previously represented by Malliotakis.

What happens next?

The fight over New York’s congressional maps is not over yet. It is expected that the governor of the state, Kathy Hochul, will bring the issue to the highest court in the state, the New York Court of Appeals. All seven judges in New York’s highest court were appointed by former Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in disgrace after a sexual harassment scandal last year. It is expected that the judges will quickly take the case and hear arguments immediately, with the possibility of rendering a final verdict next week.  

The ongoing fight in New York over the ultimate fate of their congressional maps will play a crucial role in the balance of power in the House of Representatives over not only this year’s midterms but the next decade. While Democrats are trying to get their map approved in New York, they have opposed Florida’s new congressional map which is set to give Republicans a significant advantage in their legislative elections.

If the court overrules the previous decisions, then the Democratic Party would consolidate a net three-seat win in the state, slightly increasing their chances to withstand the expected Republican electoral wave during this year’s midterms.

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