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New York lawmakers approve new congressional map that tilts in Democrats’ favor

By Fredreka Schouten, CNN

(CNN) — The Democratic-controlled New York Legislature on Wednesday swiftly approved a new congressional map that would give the party a modest advantage in US House elections this fall – just days after rejecting lines drawn by an independent redistricting commission.

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the map into law later Wednesday.

Democrats and Republicans involved in the pitched fights over New York’s congressional lines signaled Wednesday that they would accept the final map, likely bringing to a close years of litigation and controversy.

Under the new map, Democrats appear poised to gain more of a partisan advantage in two districts in the Empire State – closely watched as a key battleground in the fight for control of House, where Republicans currently hold a razor-thin majority. House GOP gains in New York in 2022 helped the party seize control of the chamber in that year’s midterm elections.

The map would put at risk a central New York seat represented by freshman Republican Brandon Williams by adding more territory friendly to Democrats, and it would shore up Democrat Tom Suozzi’s Long Island seat, which the party flipped earlier this month in a special election to succeed expelled former Rep. George Santos.

Additionally, the state lawmakers made a Hudson Valley seat now held by Republican freshman Marc Molinaro more competitive than the district lines proposed by the New York Independent Redistricting Commission. But the new district’s partisan balance would remain similar to the seat Molinaro currently holds.

Democrats, who control both chambers of the New York Legislature, on Monday rejected the redistricting commission’s map – saying it inappropriately divided counties and communities of interest, while going too far to protect incumbents.

But state lawmakers – wary of triggering a new round of lawsuits over redistricting – steered clear of an aggressive partisan gerrymander that some observers speculated could have yielded as many as six Democratic pickups. A handful of Republicans supported the map.

During floor debate this week, several Republicans accused Democrats of ignoring the will of state voters who had approved a constitutional amendment that helped to set up the bipartisan commission to draw district lines.

Democrats are saying “good riddance to independent redistricting,” GOP state Rep. Andy Goodell said Wednesday.

But Democratic state Rep. Kenneth Zebrowski cast the legislature’s map as more of collaboration with the commission, saying lawmakers made needed changes “in a handful of cases” to better comply with principles in the state’s constitution.

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries – the top Democrat in the US House and the person who stands to become speaker if his party wins the majority this year – praised the state lawmakers’ action Wednesday, saying that the final map “delivers the type of fair representation that the people of New York State deserve.”

Democrats also approved separate legislation that limits the jurisdictions in which lawsuits about congressional redistricting can be brought – in an apparent effort to keep any challenge to the map from appearing before conservative judges.

Republicans on Wednesday – including New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox – said there was no need for further litigation over the new map.

In a statement, Adam Kincaid, who leads the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said the map passed Wednesday preserves much of the redistricting commission’s work.

“It puts an end to two years of litigation and positions New York as the pivotal congressional battleground for the decade,” he said.

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who chairs a national Democratic redistricting group, called the final map a “fair result” for New Yorkers.

The redistricting process in New York following the end of the 2020 census has dragged on for years.

A state court judge oversaw the process of drawing the congressional map used in the 2022 elections. This came after the Independent Redistricting Commission failed to agree on new lines following the census and a map drawn by the Democratic-controlled Legislature was rejected by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

Democrats, arguing that the court-drawn map should not be used for more than one election, went back to court, asking for the redistricting commission to try again. The Court of Appeals, now under more liberal control, agreed late last year and tasked the commission with drawing a new map.

That map was rejected by state lawmakers Monday, before they passed their own version Wednesday.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Gloria Pazmino contributed to this report.

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