NEW YORK — The state Court of Appeals has ordered an independent redistricting commission to redraw New York’s congressional districts.
It’s a move that has national implications and could affect which party controls the House of Representatives.
New York has a law that says you can’t gerrymander, or make congressional maps essentially for political gain. The Constitution calls for a bipartisan commission to draw the maps, but then Democrats controlling the statehouse get final approval and only slight changes in current maps could likely end with lines favorable to Democrats.
The decision, which came down Tuesday afternoon, throws a monkey wrench into the 2024 congressional races in New York, where the six freshman Republicans who won last time could have to run in new district lines that are less favorable, and it could give Democrats a leg up in taking back control of the House, where only a handful of votes separate the two parties.
The New York Congressional Delegation currently has 15 Democrats and 11 Republicans. If all six freshmen lose and everything else stays the same next November, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries could become speaker.
Depending on how the independent redistricting commission redraws the maps, the most vulnerable New York congressmen could be Mike Lawler of Rockland County, Anthony D’Esposito of Long Island, and Marc Molinaro of Dutchess County.
Former congressman Tom Suozzi,, could also see his district redrawn to add more likely Democrat voters.
Watch Marcia Kramer’s report
Needless to say, the Republicans are furious and the Democrats are thrilled.
“I think it’s corruption at its finest. We had a ruling last year that overturned the Democrats’ attempts to gerrymander New York’s maps and violate the Constitution. And because they didn’t like the outcome, they decided that they would do it once more,” Lawler said.
The high court ruled last year that Democrats had “unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts.” A neutral court-appointed special master drew new lines that helped Republicans flip four seats last November, but judges Tuesday said those maps were only supposed to be temporary and in a 4-3 vote, the Court of Appeals upheld a challenge and tossed out the current maps.
“This is what the court should have said last year. If they thought the process was incomplete, they should have just ordered the commission to finish the job, not take it completely away and draw the lines themselves through a special master from another state. That was just an absurd outcome to begin with. I’m glad now that things are being made right,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat representing Queens.
Republicans hold a razor-thin three-seat majority in Congress, and this could potentially help flip anywhere from two to six seats.
“This is an enormous ruling not only because it can swing so many suburban New York area congressional districts, but the entire balance of power in Congress could hinge just on Upstate New York and Long Island — Hudson Valley, Syracuse area, Nassau and Suffolk County,” said CBS News congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane.
New York GOP Chair Ed Cox and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik from upstate New York, saying they “will not give up the fight against gerrymandering.”
The 4-3 ruling was written by the new Chief Justice Rowan Wilson.
The commission has until Feb. 28 to finish its work, then it goes to the Democratic-controlled legislature for approval. Lawler says there could be many lawsuits filed.