Did the Democrat-led New York Legislature unconstitutionally pass new maps setting congressional district lines for the next decade? That’s one of the questions before a panel of five midlevel appellate judges, who began hearing arguments Wednesday.
A group of Republican voters say the maps are rigged and have sued in state court asking that the maps be thrown out and that the June congressional primary be delayed until the end of August. They say this would give the state enough time to come up with new maps.
Democrats’ lawyers say the maps are more than fair to Republicans, who lost control of the state Senate for decades in 2018 but have won some swing districts. Democrats say the new maps protect minority voting rights and reflect population loss in upstate communities once considered Republican strongholds.
Republicans make up about 22% of New York’s registered voters and currently hold eight of the state’s 27 seats in Congress. But New York is now one seat short after the 2020 census, and the new maps would give Democrats a large majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.
So far this election cycle, the courts have stepped in to block maps they found to be Republican rigs in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and a Democrat rig in Maryland. Such decisions have led to delays in primaries in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland.
The New York panel of judges is considering several key questions, including whether the Congressional map is rigged, whether the Legislature overstepped its authority in producing the maps, and whether Republican voters have the right to sue over the maps in the first place. place. It’s unclear if the justices will issue a decision following oral arguments broadcast live Wednesday in Rochester.
Gerrymandering is a uniquely American problem that ends up disenfranchising tens of millions of American voters. NBCLX political editor Noah Pransky used his favorite candy to explain what it is and how it can be solved.
The GOP lawsuit cites computer simulations conducted by election analyst Sean Trende, who found that the maps were doctored.
“All the good government groups, left, right and center, say this,” said his attorney, Bennett Moskowitz.
Attorney Alice Reiter, representing the state Senate, said Republican voters don’t have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Democrats rigged the maps. She called Trende’s analysis flawed and said no court has ever ruled out maps based on computer simulations.
“I think the process followed partisan lines, but that is far from proof that it was partisan in intent,” he said.
Democrats also say there isn’t enough time to change the maps for the 2022 races and say the justices should throw out the lawsuit because it doesn’t include voters in every district in the state.
A lower court judge declared last month that the new maps of New York were unconstitutionally drawn and ordered the legislature to quickly redraw them. The judge said the congressional maps specifically were tampered with unconstitutionally, and said the legislative maps should also be thrown out because lawmakers exceeded their authority when they approved them.
Lawyers for the state Senate, Assembly and Gov. Kathy Hochul appealed the lower court’s ruling, saying the judge was wrongly limiting the power of the Legislature.
This month, an appeals judge allowed the trial judge to hire an expert to draw up alternate maps of congressional districts in case the disputed ones were ultimately thrown out.