New York’s top court on Tuesday ordered the state to restart its redistricting process and create a new congressional map, in an opinion that could shake up the race for the closely divided House in next year’s election.
The 4-3 ruling would have the state restart its independent redistricting commission process, which means the map-drawing process eventually could end up once again going to the Democrat-controlled legislature.
In last year’s congressional election, with a court-drawn map, Republicans flipped four seats to hold 11 of the state’s 26 seats.
New lines could affect 2024 races for those seats — Brandon Williams’ in the 22nd District, Mike Lawler’s in the 17th, Anthony D’Esposito’s in the 4th and the open seat formerly held by expelled Rep. George Santos in the 3rd.
Those races were already rated Toss-Up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. A fifth seat, Marc Molinaro’s in the 19th District, is rated Tilt Republican, one notch short of Toss-up.
“Democrats had a half-dozen good takeover opportunities before this decision and a new map should make some of those seats even better,” said Gonzales, elections analyst for CQ Roll Call. “If Democrats don’t pick up close to a handful of seats in New York next fall, then they probably aren’t winning back the majority.”
The court gave the commission until Feb. 24 to adopt a new plan for the state. The state’s primary is currently set for June 25.
The majority opinion, written by Judge Rowan Wilson, held that courts do not have the power to draw maps for an entire decade. Instead, that power should go to the state’s independent redistricting commission process, the opinion said.
Because the state commission and legislature did not pass a map that complied with the state constitution, the majority said they should try again.
“The Constitution demands that process, not districts drawn by courts. Nevertheless, the IRC failed to discharge its constitutional duty. That dereliction is undisputed,” the opinion said.
The same court tossed a map drawn by the Democrat-controlled state legislature as a partisan gerrymander last year.
The legislature drew the map after the state’s independent redistricting commission deadlocked ahead of the 2022 election. The state legislature drew a map favoring Democrats, which the Court of Appeals threw out for violating a constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering.
The court then adopted a new, more competitive map that was used for the 2022 midterms.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., praised the “enlightened decision” in a statement Tuesday, and said it would mean the end of the map drawn by the “unelected, out-of-town” court-appointed expert that “undercut the will of New York voters in the 2022 midterm election.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately criticized the decision in a statement Tuesday as giving Democrats a second chance to adopt a map favoring them in next year’s election.
“Instead of focusing on policies that appeal to everyday voters, Democrats are trying to cheat their way to power. We will continue to hold them and their terrible policies — that have led to an open border, rising crime and rampant inflation — accountable,” spokeswoman Savannah Viar said in a statement.
New York is just the latest state where court battles have shaped the battleground for control of the House in next year’s elections. Georgia adopted a new court-ordered map last week, and other states are facing court battles over their district lines.