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Court Rules NY Commission Must Redraw State’s Congressional Maps

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Rep. Mike Lawler was among the state’s Republicans who blasted the state Appellate Court’s decision that congressional lines must be redrawn by New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission.

Some Republicans and Conservatives lashed out last week at a New York appellate court decision that ruled the state’s congressional maps to once again be redrawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).

In a split 3-2 decision that was released last Thursday that could have national implications next year, the court ruled in favor of a group of New York residents who argued that the state Supreme Court’s redrawn districts were to be in effect for only the 2022 election instead of until the next regularly scheduled redistricting in 2032.

Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the new federal census at the start of each new decade.

The legal battle started after the IRC, which was created in 2014 to avoid partisan redistricting by the party controlling the legislature, was locked in a stalemate in its attempts to draw new congressional maps. Early in 2022, the Democratic-controlled state legislature then stepped in and finished the job in time for last year’s primaries and genera

However, Republican-backed supporters filed litigation in state Supreme Court in upstate Steuben County arguing that the Democrats had severely gerrymandered the state’s districts.

The petitioners in the latest appeal contended that the state Supreme Court’s redrawn congressional lines was intended to be used for the one congressional cycle.

In its split decision last week, the appellate court majority argued that under the state Constitution, the IRC neglected to do its job and the commission must reconvene and once again redraw the lines

“In light of the foregoing, petitioners have demonstrated a clear legal right to the relief sought,” the three-member appellate court majority concluded last week. “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 right to participate in the democratic process is the most essential right in our system of governance. 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. Accordingly, we direct the IRC to commence its duties forthwith

Republicans in the state, especially those with high stakes, quickly assailed the ruling. Rep. Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River), who was one of several GOP candidates who likely benefited from the state Supreme Court map, accused House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) of orchestrating a power grab.

“Now, they’re back for more. After their disastrous showing in last year’s midterms, New York Democrats are once again trying to rig the maps for the upcoming elections in 2024,” Lawler said. 

“Instead of running better candidates, having a coherent strategy, or messaging on issues New Yorkers actually care about, Albany and Washington D.C. Democrats would rather gerrymander their way to power. Hakeem Jeffries and Albany Democrats know they can’t win on fairly drawn maps, so they’re doing everything in their power to rig the system,” he also said.

Last year, there were at least four New York Republicans that won House seats in outcomes that were considered at least mild upsets, including Lawler’s victory of five-term incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney. Currently, Republicans hold a razor-thin 222-212 majority in the House of Representatives, making the New York congressional districts that flipped last year a national battleground.

The state’s Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar also lambasted Democrats for looking to overturn the will of the public.

“Conservatives won New York House seats in 2022 fairly and squarely,” Kassar said. “This is a politically contrived move by Democratic leaders to undo the will of the voters and to deny them the leaders they chose under fair district lines.”

Kassar added that he is confident that the state’s Court of Appeals “will reverse this ill-conceived ruling by upholding the fair congressional lines established in 2022 by the District Court.”

The Examiner reached out to the Mondaire Jones campaign but did not receive a response. Jones officially declared his candidacy for the 17th Congressional District to take on Lawler next year.

Further fueling Republican and Conservative suspicion is that the petitioners retained the Washington, D.C.-based Elias Law Group. Its website’s home page states “Elias Law Group is the nation’s largest law firm focused on representing the Democratic Party, Democratic campaigns, nonprofit organizations, and individuals committed to securing a progressive future.”


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