New York’s highest court has struck down new district lines for Congress and the state Senate drawn up to political advantage by state Democrats with just weeks to go until the June 28 primary elections.
The issue before the Court of Appeals, which held a hearing on the matter Tuesday, was whether Democrats acted with partisan intent while violating the procedures established by the amendment, which tasked an Independent Redistricting Commission with drawing the maps.
“We answer both questions in the affirmative and therefore declare the congressional and senate maps void. As a result, judicial oversight is required to facilitate the expeditious creation of constitutionally conforming maps for use in the 2022 election and to safeguard the constitutionally protected right of New Yorkers to a fair election,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a ruling released Wednesday afternoon.
Republicans celebrated the decision, which belies Democrats’ many claims that they did not gerrymander the new maps for partisan reasons.
“The decision today from the Court of Appeals affirms our position that under One-Party Rule, Albany politicians engaged in obvious partisan gerrymandering, violating the State Constitution,” GOP state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said in a statement.
“Despite Democrats’ attempts to inject partisan politics into this process, New Yorkers will now get what they voted for. We look forward to a special master producing fair, independent maps for the people of New York,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Senate Democrats said they disagree with the court decision but will accept it. Senate Democrats are now focusing on making their case to a court-appointed special master, who could still draw new lines that are closer to what Albany Democrats approved than the current maps for the legislature and Congress.
“The state Senate maps in particular corrected an egregious partisan gerrymander and have not been overturned on the merits by any court,” reads the statement.
The ruling stated that “judicial oversight” will be needed to ensure new maps are in place in time for upcoming elections, which the ruling added could include shifting primaries for state Senate and Congress to August, shaving months off the campaign time left before the November general election.
“We are confident that, in consultation with the Board of Elections, [the state] Supreme Court can swiftly develop a schedule to facilitate an August primary election, allowing time for the adoption of new constitutional maps, the dissemination of correct information to voters, the completion of the petitioning process, and compliance with federal voting laws,” reads the ruling.
Albany leaders approved new maps weeks ago that appeared specifically redrawn to benefit Democrats — and hurt Republicans — in their ongoing efforts to protect their legislative supermajorities and control of the U.S. House.
Republicans subsequently sued, arguing that Democrats violated a 2014 amendment to the state Constitution barring partisan gerrymandering.
“The Petitioners and the arguments they presented were totally vindicated today. We look forward to participation in the process ordered by Judge McAllister directing the special master to redraw congressional districts and also new, fair districts for the state Senate,” John Faso, a former congressman who advised the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement.
Democratic state Party Chair Jay Jacobs downplayed the importance of the ruling on the November election results in New York, where Democrats have a large registration advantage over the GOP statewide.
“We remain confident in Democratic victories up and down the ballot this November. While certain district lines may change, what does not change is our Party’s record of results which contrasts clearly with the Republican Party’s radical agenda to drag this state backward,” Jacobs said in a statement.
Commissioners of the Independent Redistricting Commission ultimately failed to agree on a single set of maps for Assembly, Congress and state Senate, which Democratic lawmakers maintained allowed them to redraw the lines as they saw fit.
But Republicans pointed to many examples of partisan gerrymandering, including new lines for the Staten Island based District 11 currently held by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. Albany Democrats aimed to add super-liberal Park Slope to her district two years after she defeated Democratic Rep. Max Rose for the seat.
“Park Slope just happens to be the childhood neighborhood of my Democratic opponent Max Rose,” Malliotakis told The Post, following the ruling. “The Democrats’ gerrymandering was a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn voters.”
The new maps would have given Democrats an advantage in winning as many as 22 out of the 26 congressional seats that will remain in New York after the 2020 Census reduced the state congressional delegation by one. They also stood to gain seats in the state Senate as well, which had been gerrymandered by Republicans in prior redistricting cycles.
“The Hochulmander has officially been defeated … even the partisan-appointed Democrat judges couldn’t swallow how filthy this gerrymander was,” GOP State Party Chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement Wednesday afternoon about the split decision by the Court of Appeals.
These extra seats would have provided Democrats a huge boost as well in defending their slim majority in the U.S. House in upcoming midterm elections that are expected to be especially brutal for Democrats, given the ongoing unpopularity of President Joe Biden.
Democratic Party efforts to defend their supermajority in the state Senate are also hampered by the ruling. The political fallout continued to fall on Albany leaders from Hochul on down.
“Another failure for New York’s dysfunctional government and Kathy Hochul. She’s not the leader that New Yorkers need or deserve. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running in the June Democratic primary against Hochul, tweeted Wednesday.