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New York congressional map must be redrawn, court rules

A New York appeals court on Thursday ordered an independent commission to redraw the state’s congressional map, signaling an opportunity for Democrats to regain House seats after redistricting contributed to Republicans flipping four districts in 2022.

The 3-2 ruling issued by the Appellate Division of New York’s State Supreme Court orders the Independent Redistricting Commission to restart the mapping process. Restarting this process would eventually give final map approval to the Democratic-controlled state legislature ahead of the 2024 elections. But Thursday’s ruling is expected to be appealed to the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, which will make the final decision.

Thursday’s majority opinion found that appellants in the suit have “a clear legal right to the relief sought. This determination honors the constitutional enactments as the means of providing a robust, fair and equitable procedure for the determination of voting districts in New York.”

The appeal was filed on behalf of 10 New York residents, who are being represented by the Democratic Party-aligned Elias Law Group.

Aria Branch, an Elias Law Group partner, said in a statement that Thursday’s decision “is a huge step in the right direction.”

“We are thrilled that the Court recognized the Independent Redistricting Commission’s constitutional duty to redraw New York’s congressional map. We will continue to advocate for the open, fair redistricting process that recognizes New York’s racial, ethnic and geographic diversity,” Branch added.

Jack Pandol, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director, suggested in a statement Thursday that “New York Democrats are attempting a blatant partisan power grab thinly disguised as a court case.”

“Republicans will appeal to protect the will of the voters of New York, and we will fight to hold the line in the Empire State,” Pandol added.

Thursday’s court decision is the latest in a years-long dispute within the state over the makeup of its congressional district map, which has been seen as a test of Democrats’ broad opposition to gerrymandering — the act of drawing voting map boundaries to give one political party an advantage.

In 2014, voters in the state adopted a constitutional amendment that established a bipartisan redistricting commission tasked with drawing up the state’s congressional district map. Since redistricting occurs every 10 years — after the Census Bureau releases data on the country’s population changes — the 2020 Census gave the state its first opportunity to redistrict through the commission.

But the commission, as a result of its own partisan stalemate, never produced a final map, so the New York state lawmakers did it themselves. That map, drawn by a state legislature with a liberal majority, could have gained Democrats as many as three new seats — but a court struck it down in 2022. That ruling took the mapmaking role away from the state legislature and gave it to a court-appointed “neutral expert.”

The map drawn by the neutral expert was formally approved in May 2022, contributing to GOP pickup opportunities across the state.

Those Republican wins have had national political consequences, helping GOP retake a majority in the House of Representatives — and thwarting most of the Democrats’ efforts to accomplish much of President Biden’s legislative agenda since January.

Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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