Tuesday, December 12, 2023

New York’s top court rules for Democrats in major redistricting case



New York’s highest court ordered the state’s redistricting commission to submit a new congressional map, handing a major victory to Democrats in their fight to regain lost ground in the last election cycle.

Democrats were seeking a redraw of the state’s maps after a tumultuous redistricting process during the November midterms.

The bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), tasked with offering a proposal for the new congressional lines after the latest census, failed to reach a consensus, which ultimately led a court-appointed special master to draw New York’s congressional maps last cycle — a design that enabled Republicans to flip a crucial handful of seats.

The New York Court of Appeals’s 4-3 ruling gives the IRC a second shot . The court ordered the commission to submit a new map “on the earliest possible date” but no later than Feb. 28.

“In 2014, the voters of New York amended our Constitution to provide that legislative districts be drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC),” Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote in the majority opinion.

“The Constitution demands that process, not districts drawn by courts,” he 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.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) backed the lawsuit, filed by a group of voters.

The case was decided by seven judges, all appointed by Democratic governors.

In dissent, Judge Anthony Cannataro said the ruling means “politics triumphs over free and fair elections.”

Describing an “extravagant delay,” Cannataro ruled that petitioners filed their claims too late, noting they had not filed their claims when the IRC deadlocked. Even putting the timing issue aside, Cannataro said the special master had already remedied the IRC’s failures.

“Today, even though the constitutionality of the existing district lines has not been substantively challenged, the majority reverses course,” wrote Cannataro, who was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“Recasting the judiciary’s long history of safeguarding New Yorkers’ right to free and fair elections as the problem in need of correction — with political gerrymandering meriting barely any mention in the majority decision — the Court today strictly curtails the constitutional authority of the judiciary to remedy future legislative overreach, rewriting the Constitution in order to do so,” Cannataro continued.

Democrats immediately took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to celebrate the ruling.

“Today’s decision is a victory for every New Yorker who wants to be fairly represented at the federal level,” wrote former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s running for Rep. Mike Lawler’s (R) seat in New York’s 17 th Congressional District.

Jones suffered from the court-appointed redistricting map last cycle. The special master’s map created several awkward member-on-member primaries, and then-Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chaired the House Democrats’ campaign arm, decided to run in the 17th District. Jones decided to run in the 10th District to avoid battling it out with a top House Democrat, but he lost that primary to Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) while Maloney lost his race to Lawler that November.

The court-appointed map also created a dueling primary between powerful Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney in November in the 12th Congressional District, with Nadler ultimately prevailing.

“Today’s decision is a win for democracy and particularly the people of New York. We are eager for the Independent Redistricting Commission to get back to work to create a new, fair congressional map — through the process New York voters intended,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, in a statement.

Meanwhile, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and New York GOP Chair Ed Cox slammed the Court of Appeals’s decision in a statement.

“The Court’s decision today is plainly wrong on the Constitution and the law. In their relentless pursuit of power at all costs, corrupt Democrats in Albany and Washington have politicized the Court of Appeals. Its once esteemed reputation is in tatters,” they said in a joint statement.

“This outcome was preordained by Democrats’ unjustified opposition to Justice Hector LaSalle and the suspicious recusal of Judge Caitlin Halligan,” they continued. “The decision today opens the door for Democrats to rig our Congressional district lines so that elections are decided not by the voters, but by politicians in a back room.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee also said it was “disappointed but not surprised by the Court’s decision to allow Democrats a second attempt at gerrymandering the maps.”

Yet the move also creates some uncertainty around how the congressional lines may be configured and has raised questions around whether candidates may need to introduce themselves to new voters.

“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,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), who represents one of the state’s contested swing seats, wrote on X .

“When our judges ignore the law, we all suffer. Now, only Albany politicians will decide who can represent NYS in Congress. What a shame. What an embarrassment. What a disservice to the people of this great state,” wrote Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.), another Republican in a battleground district.

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

No comments:

Post a Comment