ALBANY — A state appellate court on Thursday ruled that New York’s redistricting commission should redraw congressional lines ahead of the 2024 election, a victory for the state Democratic Party.
The Appellate Division ruled 3-2 in favor of redrawing the lines, but the case is expected to be appealed to the state Court of Appeals, the state’s top court. John Faso, a former Republican congressman who now works for the state GOP, signaled as much in a statement reacting to the ruling.
“We remain confident the Court of Appeals will uphold the decision in Harkenrider v. Hochul — that the fair lines established by the District Court will be maintained and will preserve the New York Constitution’s prohibition against mid-decade redistricting,” he said in a statement.
The decision is the latest ruling in the state’s redistricting process that happens every 10 years.
The state created an Independent Redistricting Commission [IRC] in 2020 to oversee the process, comprised of both Democrats and Republicans, but it ultimately could not agree to any maps and sent the state Legislature multiple versions of state Senate and Congressional lines, which were never approved. The state Legislature in April approved a new Assembly map created by the IRC
This led to Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both the Assembly and state Senate, agreeing to draw their own set of maps, which were successfully challenged, largely on procedural grounds, in the state Court of Appeals by Republicans and thrown out. The court then directed the process back to a lower court judge in Steuben County, who appointed a special master to draw the lines.
Under those lines, Republicans ultimately picked up a few seats during the 2022 election.
In today’s lawsuit ruling, Democrats successfully argued that the special master’s maps should have only been used for the 2022 elections and new maps should be drawn by the IRC ahead of the 2024 elections.
The state Court of Appeals’ future decision could once again have major implications for the looming elections next fall as Democrats nationwide fight to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans hold a very narrow majority in Congress and New York is seen as having a few battleground congressional seats that could help flip control towards Democrats.
The most obvious example being the seat held by U.S. Rep. George Santos, a Long Island Republican elected in 2022, who was ultimately arrested in May on federal charges that allege he stole from his campaign, lied to Congress and committed unemployment fraud while also claiming publicly he was a millionaire. Santos has refused to resign and has already launched his re-election campaign.
Following Thursday’s ruling, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, applauded the decision. If Democrats were to regain control of the House, Jeffries would likely be the first black man to be elected Speaker of the House.
“The Appellate Division decision confirms that the New York State Constitution requires congressional district lines be drawn by an independent redistricting commission. In contrast, the current congressional map was drawn by an unelected, out-of-town Special Master appointed by an extreme right-wing judge, who himself was handpicked by partisan political operatives,” he said in a statement. “It’s important that the Independent Redistricting Commission get to work expeditiously and present a map that fairly reflects the racial, ethnic, cultural, regional and socio-economic diversity of our great state.”
If the state Court of Appeals rules in favor of Democrats, the IRC will once again be in charge of drawing the latest congressional maps. The commission will likely face a tight deadline in order to potentially have the new lines in place ahead of November 2024.
The commission will be required to hold 12 hearings throughout the state before drawing up any new map. If they can agree on new lines, the state Legislature is required by law to approve the maps by March 2024 for them to be in place for next year’s election.