Court ruling affects Lawler, Ryan

New York’s highest court first gave a gift to Republicans, ruling in 2022 that legislative districts approved by Democrats for Congress and the state Senate constituted gerrymandering and allowing a special master to draw new boundaries.

On Tuesday (Dec. 12), the court handed a present to Democrats, ruling 4-3 that the maps used for the 2022 election were valid for one-time use only, rather than through 2030, when the next federal census is conducted.

The Court of Appeals decision means the Independent Redistricting Commission must submit, no later than Feb. 28, new congressional district boundaries for the 2024 elections.

The decision affects the districts represented by Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican, and Rep. Pat Ryan, a Democrat. Both were elected in 2022. Lawler’s district includes Philipstown and Ryan’s includes Beacon.

The district boundaries used in 2022 were credited with helping Republicans flip four seats held by Democrats (including by Lawler, who narrowly defeated Sean Patrick Maloney) and retake control of the U.S. House. The redrawn boundaries could reverse those gains by Republicans and harm Lawler’s re-election prospects.

“This politically motivated decision is just the beginning of this process, not the end,” Lawler said on Tuesday.As Albany and Washington Democrats seek to gerrymander the congressional lines in the coming weeks, there will undoubtedly be further legal action.”

The decision on Tuesday upheld a 3-2 ruling in July by a state appeals court. That ruling, in turn, had reversed a decision in September 2022 by a judge in Albany who dismissed a lawsuit filed by five voters seeking redrawn districts before the 2024 elections.

Those voters, in addition to challenging the validity of the maps drawn by a special master, argued that the state Constitution requires the Independent Redistricting Commission to submit a second plan if state legislators reject its initial submission.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, issued a joint statement on Tuesday that the decision “will ensure all New Yorkers are fairly and equitably represented by elected officials.”

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 Hochul. But several Republican voters sued, and in March 2022, a state judge in Steuben County invalidated the maps.

The Court of Appeals upheld that decision, and a special master was appointed to redraw the boundaries. He estimated that his work increased the number of competitive congressional seats from three to eight and competitive state Senate seats from six to 15.

The maps Democrats created for the state Assembly were not challenged in court. They were used for the 2022 elections but redrawn this year and approved by Hochul.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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