How much gerrymandering is too much? In New York, answer could make or break Dems’ House hopes

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New YorkSupreme Court gave last week Democrats have a chance to redistrict the state's congressional districts, a major victory as the party tries to regain control of the U.S. House next year.

The question now is how much the state's Democrat-dominated legislature will try to push the boundaries in key battleground districts to give their party an advantage, and how far the courts will let them go.

The process will be closely monitored for any signs of partisan gerrymandering — drawing lines that give one party an unfair advantage — which is prohibited by state law. And Republicans are expected to challenge the results in court as they try to maintain their slim majority in the House.

But experts say it's unclear where the state's highest court will reach in deciding whether it is excessively partisan.

Jeffrey Wise, a New York Law School professor who focuses on redistricting, said, "There is no hard and fast definition or bright line to define partisan gerrymandering." It is often based on the judgment of panels of experts and judges."

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Part of the uncertainty in New York comes from a decision by the state's highest court last year, when it Congress maps thrown out Drawn by Democrats, it was criticized for awkwardly shaped lines that crammed the state's Republican voters into a few super districts.

In that decision, the court focused more on questions of the procedural steps taken by Democrats to draw the lines and spent only a few paragraphs on whether the districts violated the state's gerrymandering prohibition.

Instead it upheld the lower court's rulings, which based on evidence and analysis found "clear evidence and beyond reasonable doubt that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias" and "the 2022 congressional map "It was designed to discourage competition and favor the Democrats." Previous map.

The court then appointed a special master to draw new congressional lines for the last election, which simultaneously favored Republicans due to strong GOP turnout and dissatisfaction with Democratic policies. flipping seats in the suburbs of New York City and winning control of the House.

After the election, Democrats sued to have the court-drawn maps thrown out, arguing that the state's bipartisan redistricting commission should get another chance to draft congressional lines. The court agreed in a decision last week.

The new maps would first be turned over to the commission, before the legislature had a chance to approve or change the lines.

Richard Briffault, a Columbia Law School professor with an extensive background on redistricting and government, said he thinks Democrats may err on the side of caution to avoid another lengthy legal battle before the election.

"My guess is they'll be more careful," Briffault said. “It would certainly be wise for them to be more careful and not be too aggressive because they will definitely be sued.”

Democrats had already targeted the state as a battleground for next year's House races. The party has set its sights on six seats in New York that could potentially impact or exceed expected losses in at least three districts. North Carolina after there a republican gerrymander,

At the same time, redistricting litigation is underway in several other states, including Florida, Georgia, and louisiana, where Democrats are hoping to make gains. Democrats are also expected to gain a seat in Alabama, where districts were revised after federal judges ruled that the original map enacted by Republican state officials illegally diluted the voting power of black residents. Was.

"The parties are waging these district-by-district battles in courtrooms across the country with the goal of giving Democrats a better chance in the early going," Weiss said. "Each court victory matters in a major way."

The New York Redistricting Commission is tasked with submitting a map to the state Legislature by February 28. But Republicans are already complaining.

"Despite all their rhetoric about protecting democracy, we see what happened here in New York," said former Congressman John Faso, who is advising other Republicans on redistricting. “Democrats don't want to win districts at the polls. They want to win them in the back rooms of Albany.

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