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New York court orders congressional map redrawn, but appeal likely

<i>Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images</i><br/>Voting stickers are seen during Primary Election Day at PS 130 on August 23
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Voting stickers are seen during Primary Election Day at PS 130 on August 23

By Ethan Cohen

(CNN) — A New York court on Thursday ordered the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw the state’s congressional map.

While the decision is likely to be appealed to the state’s highest court, the ruling is a win for Democrats, who are hoping to get a more favorable map after losing several congressional seats in New York last year.

If the decision is upheld, it would start a process that could result in Democrats in the state legislature gaining control over the redistricting process. “The Democrats are a lot farther ahead now than they had been previously,” Jeff Wice, a professor at New York Law School, told CNN.

After the 2020 census, the bipartisan commission failed to agree on a map, and after a long legal battle, a state court judge oversaw the process of drawing the map the state used for the 2022 elections.

This case is over whether that map should be kept for the entire decade until the next census, or whether it should just be an interim map used for one election.

The court ruled that the commission should be tasked with trying again to produce a map.

“The current congressional map was drawn by an unelected, out-of-town Special Master appointed by an extreme right-wing judge, who himself was handpicked by partisan political operatives,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies said in a statement acknowledging the decision. “It’s important that the Independent Redistricting Commission get to work expeditiously and present a map that fairly reflects the racial, ethnic, cultural, regional and socio-economic diversity of our great state.”

Republicans, however, called for an appeal of the decision, which could have massive implications over control of the House. “The Appellate Division majority’s conclusion guts the New York Constitution’s explicit prohibition against mid-decade redistricting. When Democrats can’t compete, they cheat,” New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, chair of the US House Republican conference, and Ed Cox, the state party chair, said in a joint statement. “Their illegal gerrymander violated the State Constitution and bucked the will of the voters. The Court of Appeals must overturn this ruling, or Democrats will gerrymander the map to target political opponents and protect political allies – all to the People’s detriment.”

Writing for the majority, Presiding Justice Elizabeth A. Garry wrote that the decision honored the commission system, which was created by a constitutional amendment in 2014, as “the means of providing a robust, fair and equitable procedure” for redistricting.

“The right to participate in the democratic process is the most essential right in our system of governance,” Garry wrote. “The procedures governing the redistricting process, all too easily abused by those who would seek to minimize the voters’ voice and entrench themselves in the seats of power, must be guarded as jealously as the right to vote itself; in granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design.”

The fate of the case at the state’s highest court is unclear. That court ruled against the Democratic legislature, which had attempted to draw its own maps after the commission’s failure, before the 2022 elections. However, the court’s makeup has since changed. The chief judge who wrote that opinion has retired, and the new judge who joined the panel is considered more liberal.

Even if the decision is upheld, there’d be a long road ahead.

If the Democratic-controlled legislature rejects the map or set of maps submitted the commission, they’d be able to take over the process, although further litigation would be likely.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Manu Raju and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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