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New York Gerrymander Threatens First Latina Representative of Staten Island

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The New York State Legislature passed a new congressional map that will determine the composition of the congressional delegation for the next decade. In a blatantly partisan move, New York Democrats drafted a map that would highly expand their political advantage in the U.S. Congress. As of now, 20 out of the 26 seats would either be solidly Democratic or lean Democratic, leaving Republicans with only 4 seats where they could expect to win. Two seats would remain competitive.

The new map would also allow Democrats to capture up to 85% of the congressional delegation of the state, a stark contrast from the 60.9% Joe Biden obtained in New York in 2020. In remarks to El American, Alex Deise, Policy Manager of Freedom Works, said that even the couple of highly competitive districts “lean favorably on the side of the Democrats. In sum, the map goes from a 19-8 Democrat to Republican split to a 22-4 Democrat to Republican split.”

The new distribution of seats has been widely criticized by both conservative politicians and even some liberal activists, as Brennan Center’s fellow Michael Li called it a “master class in how to draw an effective gerrymander.”

The redistricting process will determine the congressional maps of the country for the next decade (Photo:US Department of Justice gives nod to North Charleston redistricting by North Charleston| Flickr| CC BY-SA 4.0)

The legality of the map has been challenged by a lawsuit brought by a group of fourteen voters who argue that the state’s Democrats “brazenly enacted a congressional map that is undeniably politically gerrymandered in their party’s favor.” The suit asks the court to immediately take down the maps. However, the courts have been historically hesitant to contradict the state legislatures on the issue of map drawing.

The Democratic legislature succeeded at this gerrymander by changing the boundaries of three districts where Republicans were highly competitive, packing them with areas that are more Democratic and ensuring that the current republican incumbents face a monumentally difficult task ahead if they want to keep their posts.

Democrats are trying to gerrymander the first Latina representative out of office

One of those GOP members of the U.S. Congress who will be facing a radically different map this year is Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who became the first Hispanic woman to represent her district after defeating Democrat incumbent Max Rose in a tight election in 2020. Malliotakis’ district, which encompasses the entirety of Staten Island will go from a partisan lean of R+13 to a partisan lean of D+7, a 20-point change in just one election cycle.

In an interview with El American, Rep. Malliotakis explained how the Democratic new map is “removing parts of Brooklyn that [she] currently represent[s] that are more conservative-leaning, and are adding in neighborhoods that are more liberal; a clear attempt to redraw the boundaries and change the rules to tilt the scale.”

Malliotakis assessment checks out with the facts on the ground, as the new map decided to take away precincts east of 15th Avenue from Malliotakis’ districts—many of which were actually won by Trump in 2020—and expand the district north, well into Brooklyn (up into State Street), encompassing a slew of precincts that voted overwhelmingly for Biden. It also leaves the more conservative-leaning precincts in the 9th and 10th District, a zigzagging, slim, and confusing map that goes from northern Manhattan to the most southern tip of Brooklyn.

By breaking up these Republican voters and adding some to the weirdly shaped 10th district with a D+52 partisan lean, Democrats appear to be doing all that is within their power to ensure that the more than 150,000 voters who elected Malliotakis in 2020 will now be represented by a Democratic lawmaker, who might be Max Rose, who Malliotakis defeated in 2020, and now has a better shot at regaining the seat.

Some precincts that Rep. Malliotakis used to represent will now be part of the weird-looking 10th congressional district, represented by Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler (Image: New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapproportionemnt)

This is what concerns Rep. Malliotakis the most, saying to us that “It’s less about me and more about the constituents that I represent who have said they didn’t want this person in Congress, and now they’re going to try to change the rules so the Democrats can put the back in Congress.”

Malliotakis also argued that the new map would be detrimental to the interests of minorities, as she says that the new boundaries have “dilute the Latino voice” as she said the Hispanic voters have now been divided between her district and the 7th circuit, ensuring that Latinos are a minority in both districts. The congresswoman also accused Democrats of doing this in the rest of the city, saying that “They’ve split the Chinese community, they’ve split the African American community. And so they’re splitting these minority groups. And we believe it’s a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.”

The failure of the independent Commission at preventing the New York Gerrymandering

One of the most astonishing facts of the new York gerrymandered map is that it was passed despite a 2014 proposal that was approved to precisely counter partisan gerrymander. Back then, the people of New York approved the creation of an Independent Commission that would draw the maps and present them to the State legislature for approval.

The rationale, Deise explained to El American, is that “the maps become more fair when politicians are not the ones drawing them.” However, the creation of the Commission did nothing to prevent these partisan maps, as the state legislature rejected the maps offered by the commission and then drafted a map of its own that was then signed into law by the governor.

Malliotakis told El American that the commission “didn’t work because the politicians in Albany leaned on the Commission members so they could take back the power.” For her, the approval of the anti-gerrymandering proposal showed that the people of the state “did not want the power to go back to Albany, they didn’t want political gerrymandering, and that is exactly what politicians did.”

When asked if she was going to support the lawsuit filed against the new map, Malliotakis said that although she was not personally taking legal action, she is aware that some of the people who filed the suit are from her district.  

Regardless of how Democrats have managed to draw a map that is highly favorable for them, Rep. Malliotakis seems ready to face the new election. “I’m going to represent whatever my district turns out to be to the best of my ability,” she told El American.

She highlighted how she is the first Latina to serve as a representative for Staten Island, and commented that Hispanics “are just as concerned about public safety. They’re concerned about the deterioration of conservative values. There are people who are also concerned about the rising cost of living in New York City and they want law and order. They share the same values that I’ve been fighting for in Congress.”

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.

Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_

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