An Albany, New York, appellate court ruled Thursday in favor of Democrats seeking another bid to redraw the Empire State’s congressional maps that were thrown out last year on procedural grounds, a major upset to Republicans seeking to maintain control of the U.S. House.
The decision was made by a five-judge panel at the Appellate Division that split 3-2 in favor of redrawing the new lines, a decision that could have major implications for the 2024 election in the state and the country at large.
The initial gerrymandered lines drawn in 2022 would have made Democrats the favored party to win in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts, but Republicans successfully challenged them and got a much more favorable map to help Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) take back control of the House. New York Republicans flipped four seats last year from blue to red, with victories for GOP Reps. George Santos, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, and Marc Molinaro.
The initial legal fight dates back to 2014, when voters adopted a constitutional amendment that banned gerrymandering and formed a bipartisan redistricting commission aimed at reducing partisan map drawing.
In the GOP suit last year, the court of appeals ruled that Democrats not only gerrymandered the maps, but also violated the 2014 redistricting procedures, thus stripping the Legislature of its mapmaking authority and placing that into the hands of a neutral expert.
But the question before the appellate court on Thursday was whether the maps drawn mid-decade were intended to be temporary. Democrats filed their lawsuit last year, paid by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, asking the court to force the bipartisan commission to finish its work.
The appeals court on Thursday found that New York Democrats showed a “clear legal right to the relief sought,” ordering the IRC to “commence its duties” and redraw a new congressional map, according to the 17-page decision.
“This determination honors the constitutional enactments as the means of providing a robust, fair and equitable procedure for the determination of voting districts in New York,” the majority wrote.
State Republicans are likely to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals.
“After failing to win at the ballot box last November, New York Democrats are attempting a blatant partisan power grab thinly disguised as a court case. Republicans will appeal to protect the will of the voters of New York, and we will fight to hold the line in the Empire State,” Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the House Republicans’ campaign arm, said in a statement.