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Democrats Allegedly Hate Gerrymandering, Except When it Favors Them


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NY Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed into law a new congressional map for the state, which would determine the composition of New York’s congressional delegation for the next ten years. The map has been accused by electoral experts, conservative politicians, and even the New York Times as an example of a gerrymandering attempt by the state’s Democrats. Although the map has been voted and signed into law, the GOP has sued the state over the map, saying it violates New York’s Constitutional commitment to fair mapping.

If the map gets upheld by the courts, then the Democratic Party would almost completely wipe out the already small Republican delegation in Congress. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the new map would transform three Republican-leaning seats into Democratic favorable seats and it would also take away one seat from the competitive column.

States will redraw all the congressional districts for this year congressional election (Image: EFE)

New York Democrats pass a brazen gerrymandered map

Although New York is by no means a competitive state, Biden won more than 60% of the vote in 2020, the GOP has maintained a decent presence in the state’s congressional delegation. In the last election, the Republican Party won 8 out of the 27 seats, which roughly corresponds to the 36% of the statewide vote that the party achieved in 2020. Out of those 27 districts, Democrats are favored in 17 seats, Republicans in seven, and there are three swing districts.

However, the new map would ensure Republicans will never have such a successful election in the next decade. From 2022 onwards, the Empire State will have a total of 26 congressional districts in the next ten years, a one-seat reduction from the 2010 census. If we repeat the 2020 vote share in this new number of districts, the GOP would roughly keep 7-8 seats and the Democrats would have the rest. The new map makes this result almost impossible.

According to FiveThirtyEight calculations, the new map would give Democrats 20 districts where they hold a comfortable advantage over the Republican Party, leaving only 4 circuits where the GOP has an advantage and a mere two competitive seats. This partisan skew would give Democrats the chance to win from 77% to 85% of New York’s state delegation in Congress. Democrats would be able to easily win at least one seat more than what they managed to win in the 2020 election, while still having the chance to gain the two toss-up seats.

To put these numbers into perspective, FiveThirtyEight has calculated that nationally (without counting New York) there have been a total of seven new Democrat-leaning seats and only one new Republican-leaning seat. New York’s map would change this calculus to 10 new Democratic-leaning districts, in other words, the gerrymandered map of New York would be equal to almost half of the nationwide Democratic gerrymander.

New York’s map is a clear example of gerrymandering, experts say

Although some liberal media outlets have resisted describing New York’s map as a gerrymander, with CNN saying Democrats will just win “several seats” and only mentioning the word gerrymander once in their article, the reality is quite clear: Democrats, who spent years lambasting the GOP on gerrymandering, have managed to pull a quite astonishing feat of gerrymandering themselves.

The New York Times, hardly a conservative media outlet, has described the new map as a brazen attempt to gerrymander. A senior counsel for the Brennan Center of Justice, an organization that has been highly critical to GOP voting laws, said to the Times that the new map “It’s a master class in how to draw an effective gerrymander” and that “Sometimes you do need fancy metrics to tell, but a map that gives Democrats 85 percent of the seats in a state that is not 85 percent Democratic — this is not a particularly hard case.”

Most interesting is that this lopsided map was a conscious decision by New York Democrats. Alex Deise, the policy manager at Freedom Works, a conservative grassroots organization explained to El American that originally, the maps were supposed to be drafted by a bipartisan commission in order to ensure fairness, however, the law also allowed the legislature to draft their own maps if it rejected two proposals from the commission, which is exactly what the Democratic-led legislature did.  

 “Ironically, after hearing Democrats scream about the dangers of partisan gerrymandering for years, the legislature drew one of the most gerrymandered maps possible,” said Deise of the gerrymandered New York maps

Democrats stay silent on their own gerrymander

Democrats and liberals have spent years denouncing Republicans for their gerrymandering in the 2010 redistricting process, and many were warning that the GOP could do the same this time around. In November 2021 CNN published an article on the redistricting process titled “2022 election: The GOP is engineering a majority with new maps.” and the New York Times wrote an article arguing the Republican Party had an advantage in the congressional elections thanks to “gerrymandered maps.”  

Democratic politicians have also voiced deep concerns over gerrymander. Obama’s Attorney general Erich Holder said in 2018 that partisan gerrymander was a serious problem, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in 2019 that Republicans were “trying to rig the 2020 census to nearly guarantee a gerrymandered Republican majority in the House. Does that sound like democracy to you?” Most astonishingly, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement criticizing partisan gerrymandering, while his own state was drafting a map to lock the GOP out of the congressional delegation.

Of course, not only have Democrat politicians said nothing over the obvious gerrymandering that is going on in New York but many of the dire predictions of a GOP engineered majority in Congress have shown to be unfounded. On the contrary, according to the Cook Political Report, Democrats will gain 2-3 seats out of the 2022 redistricting process.

Why have Democrats engaged in brazen gerrymander after criticizing it for years? For Deise, the answer is obvious,  they did it “in fear that the 2022 midterms will be a total blowout for Democrats.” He said that “Republicans are projected to take back the House of Representatives and win between 40 and 60 seats, and Democrats are seeking to soften the blow by drawing gerrymandered maps that make it harder for Republicans to pick up seats.”

For Deise, “the hypocrisy here should not be overlooked. After complaining for years about politicians drawing gerrymandered maps to keep themselves in power and being unaccountable to the voters, Democrats did exactly that.” In a clear jab at Democratic politicians, Deise added that “do not expect these “champions of democracy” to come rushing in and save the voters of New York. They can only be bothered when they think Republicans have engaged in an outrageous partisan gerrymander.”

New York Democrats’ effective gerrymander (just like the debate over the Filibuster) showed that for many politicians yesterday’s threats to democracy are today’s legitimate tools to keep power.  

Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.

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