NY’s highest court just made things harder for Democrats in the 2022 midterms
Republicans are masters of ruthlessly partisan gerrymandering, which is why swing states and battleground states such as Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio can seem much more conservative than they actually are if one is looking at state legislatures or the U.S. House of Representatives. One blue state, however, where Democrats came up with a congressional map for 2022 that was overtly Democrat-friendly was New York. But on Wednesday, April 27, the New York State Court of Appeals shot down the 26-seat U.S. House map that Democrats had in mind — dealing Democrats a blow at a time when they realize that losing control of one or both branches of Congress is a very real possibility.
The New York State Court of Appeals, handing down its decision, ruled that the map illegally gave Democrats an unfair advantage.
Journalist Sam Levine, reporting for The Guardian in an article published on April 29, explains, “New York is critical for Democrats in the decennial process of redrawing congressional districts. The state’s 26 seats offer the party one of the richest opportunities to use mapmaking power to their advantage. Democrats currently have a 19-8 advantage in the congressional delegation, but drew a map that gives them three additional seats, increasing their advantage to 22-4…. It would give the party 85% of the congressional seats in a state Joe Biden won with about 61% of the vote.”
Levine adds, “Democrats saw that advantage as a necessary effort to counter aggressive Republican efforts to distort district lines to add Republican-friendly seats in places like Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.”
In most states in the U.S., the highest judicial body at the state level is known as the Supreme Court — be it the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court or the California Supreme Court. But in New York State, the New York Court of Appeals is the highest state court — and it has declared the congressional map that New York Democrats had in mind illegal.
The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, in response to the New York Court of Appeals decision, wrote, “For Democrats, a maximal gerrymander in New York was almost a prerequisite to any chances of holding the House…. A couple of months ago, redistricting looked like a silver lining in an otherwise bleak election cycle for Democrats. Today, it looks like just another Republican bonus. Democrats can’t catch a break.”
On April 27, Wasserman tweeted:
Shorter 2022 redistricting: it's permissible to brazenly gerrymander in some states (mostly red), but not others (mostly blue). As long as that's true, you're not going to end up with a "fair" or "equitable" national House map.— Dave Wasserman (@Dave Wasserman) 1651093686
States on track for GOP gerrymanders: AL, AR, FL, GA, IN, KY, LA, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT (152 districts)\n\nStates on track for Dem gerrymanders: IL, MD, MA, NV, NM, OR, RI (49 districts)— Dave Wasserman (@Dave Wasserman) 1651093686
Biden states on track for court/commission maps: AZ, CA, CO, CT, HI, MI, MN, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WA, WI (181 districts)\n\nTrump states on track for court/commission maps: ID, IA, KS, MT, NC (26 districts)— Dave Wasserman (@Dave Wasserman) 1651093686
Levine points out that the ruling “could cost Democrats three seats” in the U.S. House of Representatives and “comes just after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis successfully pushed an aggressively gerrymandered map that adds four additional GOP seats.”
“Even though Republicans have gerrymandered districts much more aggressively in recent years, the New York ruling also offered an embarrassing rebuke for Democrats, who have led national efforts to rein in severe partisan gerrymandering,” Levine observes. “The four-justice majority said state Democrats had ignored a 2014 constitutional amendment, approved by voters, that adopted anti-gerrymandering language and put a bipartisan commission in charge of the process. Democrats drew the districts after the bipartisan commission failed to produce a plan.”
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