NY Democrats Draft House Map That Could Help Their Party

NEW YORK (New York Daily News/TNS) — After taking control of a House redistricting process from a bipartisan committee, ruling Democrats in the state Legislature have drawn a map that could boost Democrats in swing suburban races, but would have little impact on district lines in the city.

Having seized the role of mapmaker, Democratic lawmakers were left with a choice: whether to tinker with the panel’s proposals, or aggressively redraw the map to their own advantage and risk increasing the odds a court might reject their changes. As the dust settled Tuesday, it seemed the Democrats had staked out a modest middle ground.

Democrats did not seek to push progressive Brooklyn neighborhoods into the Staten Island district of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican. And even in the suburbs of Long Island and the Hudson Valley, the changes were limited. Much of Western New York went untouched by the Democrats’ scalpel.

David Wasserman, an election expert with the Cook Political Report, called the map a “mild to moderate gerrymander.”

“This is not an aggressive play by Democrats,” Wasserman said. “These are changes on the margins.”

The redraw would still carry potential implications for the fate of the House in 2024, and it is unclear if the Democrats’ approach might insulate the proposal from a possible court challenge.

The blueprint could offer a more leftward tilt to some competitive districts, including those of Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat; Rep. Pat Ryan, a Hudson Valley Democrat; and Rep. Brandon Williams, a Central New York Republican.

But overall, the changes were “pretty modest,” said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst at the nonpartisan newsletter Inside Elections.

“A lot of time, effort and money went into getting Democrats another shot at drawing this map,” Rubashkin added. “There’s a real contrast between those efforts and the final product in terms of intensity.”

In December, Democrats won a key court’s approval to reopen the redistricting process and throw out the current map. And on Monday, they rejected district lines that were approved this month by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission and that were similar to the current borders.

The GOP, which fought first to keep the current lines in place and then to approve the compromise, has said Democrats are engaged in partisan tricks to push through a map that would help Democratic candidates.

During redistricting in 2022, Democrats came up short in an effort to authorize a map that clearly benefited their own party when the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, rejected the map as unlawfully partisan.

The Court of Appeals’ composition has shifted to the left since 2022 through a nomination by Gov. Kathy Hochul, and the newly constituted court already ruled once in favor of the Democrats by reopening the process.

Before the Democratic proposal was introduced, the state Senate’s top Republican, Rob Ortt of Lockport, said in a Monday statement that “Albany Democrats are once again poised to create their own gerrymandered maps in another shameful power grab.”

Michael Gianaris, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a key player in the redistricting process, said Monday that he saw “defects” in the bipartisan map. He suggested it would dilute the votes of so-called communities of interest, which share common characteristics such as ethnicity.

He insisted Democrats were not simply redrawing the maps to suit their political purposes. “We’re prohibited from doing that,” the Queens Democrat told reporters.

It was not clear when the Legislature would vote on the latest map. But Hochul, a Democrat, sounded eager to complete the process. She would have the power to authorize the proposal.

On Tuesday, she defended the Democratic lawmakers’ decision to reject the bipartisan plan.

“It is the prerogative of the Legislature to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Hochul told reporters in Schenectady.

She added: “I’m anxious to have this chapter wrapped up as soon as possible.”

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