Ruling impacts U.S. House, state Senate
A lower-level appeals court ordered New York’s redistricting commission to redraw the maps used in last year’s U.S. House and state Senate elections, when Republicans flipped congressional seats held by Sean Patrick Maloney and three other Democrats.
The Appellate Division, Third Department ruled, 3-2, on July 13 that the Independent Redistricting Commission must redo the districts, which were created by a court-appointed special master after the commission’s Democrat and Republican appointees failed to reach consensus.
Three Highlands representatives are affected by the ruling: Rep. Mike Lawler, whose House district includes Philipstown and who narrowly defeated Maloney; Rep. Pat Ryan, whose House district includes Beacon; and state Sen. Rob Rolison, whose district includes Beacon and Philipstown.
The Third Department’s decision reversed a ruling in September by a judge in Albany, who dismissed a lawsuit filed by five voters seeking redrawn districts before the 2024 elections.
The voters argued that the congressional and state Senate maps violated a state Constitution requirement that the Independent Redistricting Commission submit a second plan for approval if state legislators reject its first one.
They also claim that the Court of Appeals, in its ruling allowing the appointment of a special master to redraw the current districts, intended that they be temporary and not used until redistricting takes place again following the 2030 census.
Republicans denounced the Third Department’s decision and vowed to appeal. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents an upstate district, and Ed Cox, who chairs the state Republican Committee, issued a joint statement that claimed Democrats “will gerrymander the map to target political opponents and protect political allies — all to the people’s detriment.”
Lawler also criticized the ruling. His district is considered one of Democrats’ key targets for regaining control of the House in 2024.
“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,” said Lawler.
Partisanship has shadowed what was supposed to be a nonpartisan process for nearly two years.
In 2021, the Democrat and Republican appointees to the 10-member Independent Redistricting Commission, which redraws boundaries after every census so that every elected official represents about the same number of people, failed to agree on new maps.
Democrats in the state Legislature then created their own maps, which were approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul. But several Republican voters sued, and in March 2022, Judge Patrick McAllister of the Steuben County Supreme Court invalidated the Legislature’s maps.
After the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, upheld the decision, McAllister appointed a special master — Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Policy and Strategy — to redo the maps. Cervas estimated that his districts would increase the number of competitive congressional seats to eight from three and competitive state Senate seats to 15 from six.
The maps Democrats created for the state Assembly were used for the 2022 elections but were redrawn this year and approved by Hochul.