In late 2021, Albany Democrats thought they were in the cat bird’s seat when the process began to redraw congressional lines based on the new census figures.
To determine the outcome, they made sure the Independent Redistricting Commission, which was evenly split between Democrat and Republican commissioners, deadlocked.
This occurred when the panel members were unable to agree on a bipartisan plan and came up with competing maps.
Due to that impasse, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature quickly exercised its authority to design and approve districts.
The lines they drew were anything but fair or neutral and failed to reflect “communities of interest.” Four of the eight Republican seats were essentially eliminated.
For example, the Staten Island-based congressional district, held by New York City’s lone GOP member, Nicole Malliotakis, was sliced and diced. South Brooklyn, a conservative leaning area, was cut out and replaced with a portion of the 100% Democratic South Bronx.
To ensure that Long Island’s North Shore’s 3rd C.D., held by retiring Congressman Tom Suozzi, remained in Democratic hands, the lines were stretched to include, believe it or not—the Bronx.
The gerrymandering in upstate New York was just as bad.
The only GOP seat that remained safe in that region was the 21st C.D. held by Elise Stefanik, which covers the northern most regions of the state.
To defeat the chair of the House Republican Conference, the Democrats would have had to include parts of Canada in her district.
Despite cries from good government groups that the new maps were egregious and discarded all pretenses of objectivity, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the recommendations into law.
But mirabile dictu, a Steuben County Supreme Court Judge, Patrick McAllister, struck down the congressional maps as unconstitutional on March 31. He ordered the Legislature “to go back to the drawing board and resubmit maps with sufficient bipartisan support by April 11.”
He also warned that if the Legislature failed to act, he would appoint a “neutral expert at state expense to prepare said maps.”
Outraged Democrats appealed the decisions and, to their shock and dismay, lost in both the Appellate Division and in the Court of Appeals—even though members of their party dominated those judicial forums.
On April 22, New York’s highest court directed McAllister to appoint an expert to assist in creating new maps. The court concluded that “judicial oversight is required to facilitate the expeditious creation of constitutionally conforming maps for use in the 2022 election to safeguard the constitutionally protected right of New Yorkers to a fair election.”
On May 22, McAlister released the revised congressional map proffered by the special master. The judge declared that the new districts are “almost perfectly neutral.” He added that “neither the court nor the special master received any information concerning where any candidate or potential candidate lives.”
While most seats in New York City will remain in Democratic hands, the lines threaten the careers of long-term incumbents.
In Manhattan, 15-term Congressman, Jerry Nadler, will have to face off with 15-term Congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney.
The fact that there are now eight of 26 New York districts up for grabs doesn’t matter to Democrats.
They are outraged because they didn’t get their way.
Democrats accused the judiciary—the very system they have turned to time and again to impose their will when they lost at the ballot box or lost a legislative vote—of “hijacking” redistricting.
An exacerbated congressman, Hakeem Jeffries, went so far as to make the ludicrous claim that the court’s new map is “enough to make Jim Crow blush.”
Gerrymandering has been condemned by New York Democrats as evil for decades—especially when Republicans controlled the state capital. But when they are in charge, the rules of fairness and equity do not apply to them.
It is their way or the highway.
Fortunately, the courts knew better and ruled judiciously that Democratic gerrymandered maps were “in violation of a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to rout out political gamesmanship in redistricting.”