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New York Dems’ Huge Redistricting Win Could Swing the House

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a seismic decision on Tuesday, New York’s highest court ordered that the state’s congressional districts be redrawn ahead of next year’s election cycle The ruling will likely transform state maps ahead of the 2024 elections and could result in Democrats winning back several seats they lost in 2022 — which could prove pivotal to regaining a national House majority.

In their 4-3 decision, the Court of Appeals’ justices ordered the state’s independent redistricting commission to submit a new map to the Legislature, agreeing with the argument made by Democrat-aligned petitioners that the panel failed to complete its constitutionally mandated duty last year. The commission must provide the map no later than February 28, 2024.

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote, “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.”

In last year’s midterm elections, Democrats outperformed expectations around the country, but not in New York, where Republicans flipped four pivotal congressional districts in the aftermath of a failed Democratic attempt at gerrymandering the state. Since then, Democrats have looked to overturn the lines put in place in 2022 — a strategy that hung in the balance this week. With the court’s decision, some prognosticators predict Democrats could win as many as six seats depending on the makeup of the new map.

The maps story began in earnest last year, when the state’s independent redistricting commission was tasked with redrawing district lines in the aftermath of the 2020 Census, which resulted in New York losing one House seat. But the bipartisan panel failed to come to an agreement on a set of maps, prompting the predominantly Democratic State Legislature to step in and draw its own lines that heavily favored the party. When Governor Kathy Hochul signed the new map into law, it was immediately challenged in court by Republicans, starting a drawn-out saga of rulings and appeals that led all the way to the Court of Appeals. The court would ultimately rule the map unconstitutional and appointed a neutral special master to draw new lines for the districts. Colleagues found themselves drawn into districts together, prompting some to either seek new seats or challenge their newfound neighbors. The new map made several districts more competitive than they would have been under the Democratic version, with Republicans winning most of the races in tight districts.

Petitioners, backed by the Democratic Party, argued that the court never determined if the map drawn by the special master was intended to be in place for the traditional ten-year period or if it was temporary due to the highly unique circumstances. They also claimed that the redistricting commission did not fulfill its constitutional duty when it failed to return a map.

In a statement, Governor Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James said, “Today’s redistricting decision will ensure all New Yorkers are fairly and equitably represented by elected officials. As the Court of Appeals reaffirmed today, district lines should be drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission. We will continue our efforts to protect voting rights for all New Yorkers.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has the potential to become the Democratic Party’s next House Speaker, praised the court’s “enlightened decision” and said the commission “can now begin the process of drawing fair maps that give New Yorkers an opportunity to elect the representation they deserve.”

The Court of Appeals’ new composition likely played a role in the success of the petitioners’ argument. Since the court last ruled on redistricting, Wilson, who dissented in the court’s previous decision to strike down the previous map, was appointed chief judge and former state solicitor general Caitlin Halligan replaced him as an associate judge, tilting the body to the left. Halligan went on to recuse herself in the matter and was replaced temporarily by Dianne Renwick, an appellate judge from the State Supreme Court, for this case.

The seats Republicans managed to wrest away in 2022 are a top electoral target for both parties next year. Right now, districts represented by Republican congressmen Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, and Marc Molinaro are currently listed as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report. Another unknown variable is the now-vacant seat of former congressman George Santos, who was expelled from the House earlier this month. The February special election to finish his term is also expected to be a toss-up, but the court’s decision means the winner could possibly end up running in a completely new district for the prescheduled 2024 primary and general elections.

Dave Wasserman, an election analyst for CPR, said on X that the seats held by Congressmen Nick LaLota and Brandon Williams, could also be in danger of switching hands based on the final lines determined by the commission. House Republicans can’t afford many losses next year if they hope to retain control of the chamber. With Santos’s exit this month Republicans’ control of the House has decreased to three seats.



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