New York appeals court panel tosses Dem-drawn congressional district map

In yet another blow to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) hopes of her party retaining control of the lower chamber after the November midterm elections, a state appeals court in New York ruled Thursday that the newly-drawn congressional map was unconstitutionally constructed to favor Democrats, as Fox News reports.

By a vote of 3-2, the panel determined that the Democrats responsible for creating the map had acted within their power in a procedural sense, a question which was a subject of contention earlier this year, but that the resulting map itself “was drawn to discourage competition and favor Democrats.”

Gerrymandered map tossed

In its written opinion, the appellate court cited the fact that the process of developing a new congressional map included almost no Republican input or involvement and that the boundaries were approved by the legislature without any GOP votes in their favor, as The Hill noted.

Arguing for the validity of their map, Democrats claimed that Republicans were treated fairly throughout the process and that the new boundaries safeguard the rights of minority voters while also taking account of population shifts in traditionally conservative upstate communities, according to NBC News.

The outlet noted that the GOP currently claims roughly 22% of the state’s registered voters and has control of eight of New York’s 27 congressional seats. However, according to the results of the 2020 Census, one of those seats is poised to disappear, and the new map afforded Democrats a substantial majority in 22 out of what will soon be 26 congressional districts.

In making its ruling, the court emphasized that those numbers stand in significant contrast to the boundaries as of 2012, in which Republicans won eight of the available seats and Democrats 19, using that as evidence of unfair gerrymandering this time around.

The court indicated that it found persuasive testimony and data offered by elections expert Sean Trende, who utilized a computer simulation used in other parts of the country to declare that the new map “pressed Republican voters into a few Republican-leaning districts while spreading Democratic voters as efficiently as possible.”

Deadline looms

As a result of its ruling, the appeals panel ordered the legislature to develop a new map by April 30, a tight deadline Democrats have suggested would be nearly impossible to meet.

Despite the short time-frame involved, given that the state’s primary elections are scheduled for June 28, it is anticipated that Gov. Kathy Hochul will appeal the decision, and oral arguments at the state’s high court could occur as early as the coming week, according to Fox News.

Democrats in New York and beyond had high hopes that the scuttled map would help provide an advantage in the fall, though courts in several jurisdictions across the country have entered the fray to halt the use of maps found to be gerrymandered in favor of one party.

Dem disappointment on the horizon?

Whether Gov. Hochul’s expected appeal is likely to succeed remains unclear, particularly given the fact that last week’s decision came from a panel generally perceived as friendly to Democrats.

But, as Michael Li of the Brennan Center for Justice explained to the New York Times, “Like other states courts around the country, New York courts aren’t finding the question of whether a map is a partisan gerrymander a particularly hard one to decide. It’s very hard to defend a map like New York’s and ultimately if it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”

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