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Democrats will draw their own maps for the 2024 New York congressional races

This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.
Hans Pennink
/
Associated Press file photo
This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.

Democrats in the New York State Legislature on Monday voted along party lines to reject new congressional district maps drawn by a bipartisan redistricting commission — and are opting to draw their own maps instead.

Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature, condemned the vote, saying it’s all about the Democrats trying to gain political advantage.

The bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission approved the maps 9 to 1 on Feb. 15, leaving the maps drawn two years ago by a court-appointed special master largely intact. Those maps are believed to have contributed to four congressional seats in New York flipping from Democrat to Republican in 2022, resulting in the GOP’s narrow hold on the U.S. House of Representatives.

But Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said that’s not why the Democrats voted down the maps.

“There are a number of constitutional defects in the lines, if you look at it, they clearly engaged in incumbent protection, which is prohibited by the Constitution,” Gianaris said.

He said at least a half-dozen counties are split under the commission's maps, and some communities of interest are also divided.

“So there's plenty of defects,” Gianaris said.

Minority-party Republicans, who backed the commission’s maps, objected.

Sen. George Borello said the Democrats’ decision to draw their own maps undermines the will of the voters who passed a constitutional amendment in 2014 that set up the bipartisan commission to draw new lines.

“The reality is we don't really care what the people think, we care what the political outcome is at the end,” Borello said. “And that's what this is about. It's taking it away from the people. Taking away the choices that they made.”

The 2022 special master maps were the result of a court battle, where the state’s highest court rejected lines drawn by the Legislature’s Democratic majority, saying they were gerrymandered to benefit the Democrats.

In 2024, that court has new leadership. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote the dissenting opinion when the court threw out the lines drawn by the Democrats. 

Next, Democrats will, once again, draw their own congressional district maps. Gianaris denied that the new maps, which are still being worked out, will benefit Democrats more than the commission’s maps. He said that’s illegal under the state’s constitution.

“If we come up with a map that respects communities of interests, deals with keeping political boundaries intact, and deals with some of the issues that we think are flawed in the map that was presented to us, then hopefully the courts will agree,” he said.

They will have to act quickly. Petitioning for federal, state and local primary elections begins Tuesday.

Gianaris said instead of postponing the start of petitioning, the Legislature will likely move to require fewer total signatures to qualify for the ballot.

He said he hopes the new lines can be in place by the end of the week.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.