New York’s bipartisan redistricting commission will need to redraw congressional maps after an Appellate Division ruling Thursday rendered the new House maps approved last year as only a temporary fix.
The midlevel court in a 3-2 ruling reversed a decision made last year by the state’s Supreme Court–which rejected maps from Democratic officials in the Legislature that Judge Patrick McAllister said “were unconstitutionally drawn with political bias.”
The Appellate Division’s ruling is seen as a boost for Democrats, who currently have majorities in the state Legislature.
Republicans said in a statement they will appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in what could have major implications for who controls the House after the 2024 elections.
“The Appellate Division majority’s conclusion guts the New York Constitution’s explicit prohibition against mid-decade redistricting. When Democrats can’t compete, they cheat,” U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), who chairs the U.S. House Republican conference said in a joint statement with Ed Cox, the state party chair. “Their illegal gerrymander violated the State Constitution and bucked the will of the voters. The Court of Appeals must overturn this ruling, or Democrats will gerrymander the map to target political opponents and protect political allies – all to the People’s detriment.”
U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Espositio (R-Island Park), who represents New York’s 4th District, said in a tweet “New York Democrats know they can’t win on the issues, so now they’re trying to use the courts to gerrymander their way to victory.”
D’Esposito is one of 18 House Republicans–alongside 3rd District Rep. George Santos–that represent districts President Joe Biden won in 2020. Biden won NY-4 by 17 points, according to multiple reports. In New York, Democrats lost six congressional races last year that Biden carried in 2020.
The lawsuit was first introduced on behalf of 10 New York voters that wanted the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission to submit a proposal for new congressional maps. The commission’s first proposal was rejected and a lawsuit led to a court-appointed expert to redraw the maps for 2022.
Those 2022 maps were only a temporary fix and can be discarded since the commission “had an indisputable duty under the N.Y. Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set,” the court ruled.
“In granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design,” Elizabeth Garry, the presiding justice, wrote in the majority opinion. “Accordingly, we direct the I.R.C. to commence its duties forthwith.”
The commission, made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, failed to reach a consensus on maps for 2022, causing the Democratically-controlled Legislature to create its own.
The Democrats’ proposal, which would have given them a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts, was said to be gerrymandered and rejected by McAllister.
The maps were eventually submitted by court-appointed a “special master” that were viewed as more neutral.