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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul locked in a Democratic power grab on Thursday, signing bills that all but guarantee Democrats will dominate in Albany and in the congressional delegation for the next decade.
The U.S. House district map maximizes the party’s prospects by building advantages into as many of 22 of the 26 new districts. The state maps were crafted to maintain the current Democratic supermajority in both the Senate and Assembly.
“These bills are necessary to reapportion districts and to provide certainty and clarity regarding such districts in a timely manner, allowing for efficient administration of the electoral process,” Hochul (D) said in an approval memo.
State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy said the party plans to sue. “There is a wild, partisan gerrymandering that took place here. It violates the state Constitution, and we’re going to try to get justice,” he said.
New York’s redistricting process has been closely watched because of its potential impact on control of Congress. The speakership of Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democratic Party’s five-seat U.S. House majority, and the ability of President Joe Biden to get his agenda enacted all will be on the line in the November election.
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Around the country, both Republicans and Democrats have been using their statehouse power in an attempt to create a national advantage, though the GOP controls the reconfiguration of more congressional districts nationwide than Democrats.
New York had the additional complication of the state losing a seat as a result of the 2020 Census. Democrats hold 19 of the current 27 districts.
- New York congressional map would create huge edge for Democrats
- New York Democrats were ruthlessly efficient (fivethirtyeight.com)
- N.Y. Democrats lead a ‘master class’ in gerrymandering (The New York Times)
The disagreement wasn’t the first for the commission, which struggled from the beginning, with the state withholding funding and Census data arriving months later than usual.
Langworthy said the foundering of the commission and Democrats’ efforts to change the process through an amendment to the state’s Constitution could be offered in a court case as evidence that “they never intended to allow that process to succeed.”
Democrats unsuccessfully sought to align the redistricting process with the June primary. Voters rejected their proposed amendment after a vigorous GOP campaign against it.
A case against the maps probably would focus on a 2014 addition to the state Constitution which says districts cannot be drawn to discourage competition or to favor or disfavor incumbents, said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. That language hasn’t been tested in court, he said.
“On the congressional map, it’s almost a textbook case of gerrymandering from an objective standard,” Li said. But New York courts have historically stayed out of redistricting disputes, he said.
Democratic lawmakers have defended their efforts as fair, and said they repaired district lines that were previously gerrymandered by Republicans.
“We’re doing the best we can with the limited time frame,” state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D) said during the Wednesday floor vote. “And we’ve come up with fair maps that the state can be proud of.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at firstname.lastname@example.org