New York Lawmakers Toss Independent-Drawn, Court-Ordered Congressional Map

Democrat-led chambers dump proposed plan, opt to craft a bluer map over GOP objections and despite the certainty of legal challenges.
New York Lawmakers Toss Independent-Drawn, Court-Ordered Congressional Map
The New York State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on March 2, 2021. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
John Haughey

The Democrat-dominated New York Legislature has rejected in super-majority votes an independent commission’s court-ordered congressional district map. It now has only days to adopt a new one without throwing the state’s 2024 election schedule into disarray.

How blue lawmakers will go with their new map will be the grist of contention among Democrats in the coming days as well as a source of swirling speculation in Washington with potentially significant ramifications on which party controls the U.S. House in 2025.

It would only take minor changes to the plan proposed by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) on Feb. 15 to diminish reelection odds for six GOP New York freshman congressional reps who won 2022 elections in districts President Joe Biden took in 2020, flipping four and keying Republicans’ narrow midterms’ recapture of the chamber and their 2024 hopes to retain it.

The Senate rejected the IRC’s proposed map in a 40-17 partisan vote on Feb. 26, with the Assembly following suit in a near-partisan 99-47 tally, kicking off a race to get a new one on the books before June 25 primary deadlines kick-in—one that can sustain certain legal challenges to stay on the November 2024 ballot.

Before the Assembly adjourned after its vote, Majority Leader Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes called on Democrats to return at 8:30 p.m. to the Capitol to conference on the maps. The chamber reconvenes at 2 p.m. on Feb. 27.

The Senate, which rejected the map quickly then debated until after 5 p.m. on a proposal to only allow redistricting challenges to be filed in four of the state’s 13 district courts—adopted 39-18—adjourned amid calls for Democrats to “stand by” for evening meetings regarding the map. It reconvenes 3 p.m. Feb. 27.

Echoing criticisms of IRC’s map by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) emanating from Washington, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Michael Gianaris called on lawmakers to remedy “numerous problems” in the plan “that run afoul of the constitutional guidelines that exist in our state constitution” with their own version.

Mr. Gianaris said there are “six counties cut eight different ways in order to draw this map” in contortions that separate “communities” of interest and defy any sense of continuity or commonality other than benefitting incumbents.

“Before us there are numerous instances—on a bipartisan basis—where it was clear that the intention of the map is simply to protect incumbents of both parties,” he said.

Republican Sens. George Borrello and Andrew Lanza were among the outnumbered Republicans who resisted on the floor despite the result being moot.

“You know, I hear a lot in this House about protecting democracy and the will of the people and the reality is the people did speak, they spoke when they adopted a constitutional amendment that they wanted to eliminate this behind-closed-doors way of redrawing congressional maps” and created the IRC, Mr. Borrello said.

Democrats have resisted the IRC since its inception and are making a mockery of the people’s will by demanding to revise an independently drawn map that is competitive and fair, he said.

“It’s taking it away from the people and taking away the choices that they make,” Mr. Barrello said. “And, once again, my colleagues are going to undermine this process.”

New York Democrats celebrated December’s Court of Appeals ruling that ordered a redraft of 2022’s congressional map that saw Republicans turn a 19-8 Democrat House delegation into one they only led 15-11.

But the IRC’s proposed map only moderately tweaks the 2022 map. The DCCC spent $5.3 million and deployed top elections lawyer Marc Elias to challenge and overturn the December court ruling.

Dorey Houle (C), flanked by Alison Esposito (2nd L) and Anthony Houle (2nd R), cut the ribbon on her new campaign office for the state Senate race in Florida, N.Y., on Jan. 20, 2024. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)
Dorey Houle (C), flanked by Alison Esposito (2nd L) and Anthony Houle (2nd R), cut the ribbon on her new campaign office for the state Senate race in Florida, N.Y., on Jan. 20, 2024. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

Speculative Winners and Losers

National Democrats want a brighter blue New York map to offset what North Carolina legislators did.

After the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected the state’s 2022 maps, the GOP-dominant North Carolina Legislature redrew a map that analysts say imperils three House Democrats and could turn the state’s 7-7 congressional delegation into a 10-4, or even 11-3, deep red contingent.

And that’s apparently what the DCCC and other national groups want New York Democrats to do, although they face a constitutional constraint against political gerrymandering that North Carolina didn’t have to contend with

Lawsuits are certain. Among those who said they’d take legal action if Democrats rejected IRC’s map is Stop Corruption New York and Ronald Lauder, who helped finance the 2021-22 legal challenge to Democrat’s first map, who vowed Feb. 25 “to stop them both in the courts and in the court of public opinion. I’ll fight and I’ll win.”

Mr. Gianaris tried to convince doubting Republican senators that the map Democrats will cobble together in the coming days will be fair—and legally defensible.

“If we come up with a map that respects communities of interest, deals with keeping political boundaries intact, and deals with some of the issues that we think are flawed in the map that was presented to us, hopefully, the courts will agree,” he said.

Even under the current map, seven of New York’s 2024 congressional races are rated by the Cook Political Reports as “toss ups.” Three are on Long Island, and three are in the Hudson Valley. The other, Congressional District 22 (CD 22), is a Syracuse-area district in central New York.

The proposed IRC map is “redder” for Rep. Marc Molinaro in CD 19 and “bluer” for Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) in CD 18 in the Hudson Valley, two key districts that are among the state’s 2024 tossup elections.

The purported revisions being pondered by state party leaders would make Mr. Molinaro’s CD 19, the CD 3 seat formerly held by Rep. Georgia Santos (R-N.Y) and flipped by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) in a Feb. 13 special election, and Rep. Pat Ryan’s (D-N.Y.) CD 18, more blue.

The rejection drew an immediate, sharp response from Alison Esposito, a 25-year veteran of the New York Police Department (NYPD), who is challenging Mr. Ryan in CD 18.

“Albany once again is hell-bent on playing games with New York’s congressional maps,” Ms. Esposito said in a statement. “New Yorkers are sick and tired of the constant political witchcraft from career politicians up in Albany and Washington who go out of their way to put politics and self-interest before the needs of hard-working New Yorkers.”

New York voters have already said they want maps drawn by the IRC, not by those who would benefit the most in how the lines are drawn, she said, alleging the people’s interests are not foremost among Democrats’ objectives.

“Unfortunately, that is not what they’re focused on,” Ms. Esposito said. “At a time when America is facing a manufactured migrant crisis, a sky-high cost of living crisis, and the failed policies of President Biden, the so-called ‘leaders’ in New York are only focused on power grabs.”

John Haughey reports on public land use, natural resources, and energy policy for The Epoch Times. He has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government and state legislatures. He is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and a Navy veteran. He has reported for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida. You can reach John via email at [email protected]
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