GOP lawsuit turns NY Congressional Map into Brazen Gerrymandering

A group of Republican-led voters filed a lawsuit late Thursday challenging a newly drawn congressional map of New York as unconstitutional, a day after Democratic lawmakers in Albany approved district lines that would greatly benefit their party in the fight for control of the House.

The 67-page lawsuit alleges the new county lines violated the state’s 2014 constitutional amendment that protects against partisan manipulation, saying Democrats “indiscriminately enacted on the congressional map that are undeniably politically favorable to their party.”

“This court should dismiss it as a matter of substance, as the map is clearly an unconstitutional party and incumbent defender,” the lawsuit was filed by a group of 14 voters.

The case, which has been widely expected, is likely to face an uphill battle: State courts have traditionally been reluctant to reject maps drawn by legislators and are difficult to prove. prove that maps in favor of a political party were drawn illegally.

However, the lawsuit was filed with the State Supreme Court in Steuben County, a Republican stronghold on the Southern Level of the state, where judges may be more sympathetic to claims of guilt. political opposition of the Democratic Party.

The outcome of the challenge may depend on how a state judge interprets the 2014 amendment’s anti-trafficking provision that has not been tested in court before, as well as the process lawmakers follow to draw boundaries.

“The question is whether the court will go back to 50 years of precedent and dismiss this plan,” said Jeffrey Wice, a senior fellow at the New York Law School’s Institute of Census and Redistricting. Are not.

The judge can uphold or overrule the maps and potentially force Democrats to redraw them — or appoint a special expert to do so in a nonpartisan way if the Legislature proves it. is impossible. The decision, if appealed, can ultimately be referred to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Democrats have denied the gerrymandering accusations, arguing that the new lines are a fair representation of a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic and where population changes over the past decade have only been intended to alleviate problems. Conservative rural areas and developing urban and suburban communities tend to be more favorable to their party.

The challenge to the New York maps comes as both sides continue to push for a nationwide redistricting process, with Republicans often doing so more effectively because they have majorities in the states. big states like Texas. Republican maps are being challenged in several states.

State lawmakers in New York have long been responsible for drawing straight lines, but the 2014 amendment created a 10-member bipartisan redistricting committee tasked with drawing zero balance maps There’s a kind of gerrymandering that has plagued the state for decades.

But the commission, as many in Albany expected, became deadlock and disagreement on a set of maps last month. That means, according to the process outlined in the law, the power to redraw the maps is vested in the Legislature, where Democrats hold supermajority in both houses.

Soon after, Democratic lawmakers rushed to draw and review their own district boundaries. No public hearings have been held, a move decried by Republicans and good government groups, but which Democrats argue is necessary to adhere to a time-sensitive election schedule.

Democrats approved the maps on Wednesday and Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed them into law the next day.

“We are 100% confident that the lines comply with all legal requirements,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader in the state Senate. “They are a huge step forward to more fairly represent and reflect the strength and diversity of New York like never before.”

The maps position Democrats as likely to overturn three House seats in November, the biggest expected change in any state. Democrats in New York currently hold 19 seats, while Republicans control eight.

The new maps, which include one less seat due to population loss, will favor Democrats in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

The lawsuit filed Thursday outlines cases, from Staten Island and Brooklyn to Long Island and North Country, in which, the plaintiffs said, lawmakers intentionally rewrote county lines to bring overall advantage for the Democrats.

“The Legislature has created many individual congressional districts with boundaries for which there is no honest explanation except for dissenting partisan and incumbent power advocates,” the petition said. lawsuit said.

However, in defending the case against gerrymandering’s claims, Democrats could argue that certain lines are drawn for a variety of other legal criteria that they have a duty to balance. when drawing lines, such as connecting communities of interest.

David Imamura, the Democrat who served as chairman of the bipartisan redistricting committee, said in an interview that the maps assembled by the Legislature “clearly incorporated” opinions. ​that his panel received in public hearings across the state.

“These maps reflect communities of interest across the state,” said Mr. Imamura. “I think New Yorkers will have their communities represented well in the maps the Legislature has put out.”

The lawsuit also says that the new maps violated a provision from the 2014 amendment that said counties “shall not be drawn to discourage competition or with the intent to favor or disproportionately favor incumbents or incumbents.” other specific candidates or political parties.”

John Faso, a former Republican congressman from New York, said he was acting as “a volunteer to help coordinate political and financial support” for the lawsuit, adding that it was brought up by New Yorkers “concerned about the legislature’s willful disregard for the anti-language behavior in the State Constitution.”

One of the attorneys who brought the case, George Winner, is a former Republican senator; again, Misha Tseytlindebated the cases of senior redistricting and challenged capacity restrictions on houses of worship imposed by former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo during the pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed against Hochul, the Democratic legislative leaders and senior governor, as well as the state election board and task force that drew the approved maps. Ms. Hochul and Carl E. Heastie, speakers for the Council, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nicholas Fandos contribution report.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/nyregion/redistricting-lawsuit-gerrymandering-ny.html GOP lawsuit turns NY Congressional Map into Brazen Gerrymandering

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