Democrats haven't quite given up on using their gerrymandered, unconstitutional maps in New York

Democrats haven't quite given up on using their gerrymandered, unconstitutional maps in New York
(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

Wednesday a NY Appeals Court ruled that redistricting maps created by state Democrats were in violation of the state constitution. The constitution had been amended in 2014 to require a specific bipartisan procedure for redistricting and when that process bogged down in New York, Democrats simply abandoned it. The Court also found that the maps themselves were unconstitutional because they showed a clear partisan intent, i.e. Democrats trying to eliminate GOP districts.

Today Politico has a follow up piece about all of the considerable heartburn this decision has caused inside the party. It’s very entertaining stuff:

“I don’t think anybody’s gonna have to go to therapy as a result of it. But let’s put it this way: It’s not the kind of news that the Democrats wanted,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat and the one-time leader of the party’s congressional campaign arm.

“Going into a tough midterm, you’re fighting for every yard. And when the referee tells you that you’ve lost yardage, it doesn’t help team spirit,” Israel said…

“I’ll tell you the New York decision — there’s a lot of buzz around it,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), another former congressional campaign arm chair. “You kind of think as Democrats if you have a Democratic-led state that it’s going to turn out OK. And it hasn’t.”

It’s stunning to many NY Democrats that their unconstitutional abuse of power hasn’t been allowed to stand. But Rep. Kathleen Rice, a retiring Democrat, told Politico, “I think it looks bad. I think we’ve got egg on our face.” She added that Democrats had overreached:

“It didn’t need to be that way,” she said. “We could have made lines that were fair and followed the rules and still have been effective at making sure that Democrats are represented.”

Rice’s point echoes that of Republican State Party Chair Nick Langworthy who said any chaos going forward was the fault of state Democrats:

“I understand that this is going to be a bit chaotic going forward,” Langworthy said.

The GOP Chair said any inconvenience or confusion, though, is the fault of the Democrats responsible for the lines, including Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris.

“This chaos lies squarely with (them),” Langworthy said, “and every legislator who voted for these illegal maps.”

As I pointed out Wednesday, state Democrats argued to the NY Court of Appeals that even if the maps were unconstitutional it was too late to draw new ones. Therefore the 2022 election would need to proceed with the unconstitutional maps. The court rejected that idea and ordered a lower court to appoint a special master to quickly revise the maps while the primary dates were pushed back a few weeks to make the change. But it appears Democrats are still hoping they can force the issue. After consideration of the problem, they have a plan:

The redistricting mess dominated a discussion of the state’s Democratic delegation during a Zoom meeting on Thursday, according to multiple people on the call. Members expressed concern over the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the process and discussed potential legal avenues for fighting the ruling.

Two seemed to gain the most traction: The state attorney general could offer a legal opinion stipulating that New York’s primary must be held as scheduled in June, ensuring the current maps would stand…

“That’s the law,” [Rep. Sean Patrick] Maloney told reporters Thursday afternoon, citing the state’s scheduled primary date of June 28. “Someone else is going to have to change that federal court order. It’s in effect right now, and the state is bound by it.”

In a nutshell the Democratic response is: Nothing we can do about those blatantly unconstitutional maps now. We’ll just have to use them anyway.

Retiring GOP Rep. Tom Reed summed it up saying, “This is the arrogance of Albany that was on display.” It looks like NY Democrats haven’t quite run out of arrogance yet despite the court order telling them it’s over. Keep your eyes peeled for a legal opinion from AG Letitia James about the date of the state primary.

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Ed Morrissey 10:01 AM on June 02, 2023