A State Supreme Court judge in New York dealt a serious blow to Democrats on Thursday by declaring that a new set of party-drawn congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered for partisan advantage and sending their creators back to the drawing board, as the New York Times reports.
The ruling comes at a time when the state’s party primaries are drawing near, and unless the issues are resolved with new maps or via appeal, the electoral calendar could be thrown into considerable disarray.
Judge blocks use of Dem-drawn maps
Justice Patrick F. McAllister determined that Democrat officials in the capital of Albany used the congressional district map-drawing process to further their partisan interests and, in doing so, violated a voter-approved constitutional provision preventing partisan gerrymandering.
The judge blasted the Democrats responsible for the new maps for taking advantage of the same kinds of tactics for which they have long assailed their GOP counterparts to produce a map that gave them a clear advantage in all but four congressional seats.
In addition, McAllister prohibited the use of new district boundaries created for State Senate and Assembly elections, issuing a deadline of April 11 for the creation of a set of “bipartisanly supported maps.”
If those new boundaries are not generated as ordered by the stated deadline, McAllister said, he would engage the services of an independent special master to redraw the district lines at state expense, as ABC News noted.
Party leaders vow to appeal
Given that in New York, the term “Supreme Court” refers to a lower-level trial court, Democrats have the opportunity to appeal Judge McAllister’s ruling, something party leaders have already pledged to pursue.
“This is one step in the process. We always knew this case would be decided by the appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will be stayed as the appeal process proceeds,” explained Mike Murphy, a representative of the Senate Democrats.
The promise to appeal was echoed by Democrat New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James, according to ABC News.
It is no surprise that the battle over redrawn maps – a process set into motion by the results of the 2020 census – is being so fiercely fought, considering that the outcome of the fight in several states may heavily influence which party ends up controlling the U.S. House of Representatives for the second half of President Joe Biden’s term in office.
Nationwide battle continues
The stakes in New York’s redistricting battle are viewed as quite high among Democrats, who believe the state may be the party’s best chance to flip GOP-held seats in a quest to ward off an anticipated Republican wave in the midterm contests that could change the balance of power in Washington.
With map-drawing court battles in states such as Maryland, Wisconsin, and Ohio have recently gone against the desires of Democrats, as the Times noted, it appears that the left does indeed have real cause for concern as November draws nearer and Republicans sense significant tailwinds in their quest to reclaim control of the House and perhaps even the Senate.