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New York Democrats illegally drew congressional districts, under appeals court rules

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A mid-tier New York state appeals court ruled late Thursday that Democrats illegally mapped out Congress to unfairly benefit their own party.

A five-judge panel wrote that Democrats unconstitutionally established congressional precincts “to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” Two of the judges dissented.

The House of Assembly is pictured during a legislative session at the State Capitol on Friday, April 8, 2022 in Albany, NY
(AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

The justices said Democratic lawmakers drafted the 2022 congressional redistricting map “without any Republican input, and the map passed the legislature without a single Republican vote in favor of it.”

A group of Republican voters had argued that the cards amounted to gerrymandering and filed a lawsuit in state court demanding the cards be thrown out and the June congressional primaries delayed until late August. They say that would give the state enough time to draw up new maps.

Lawyers for the Democrats said the cards were more than fair for Republicans, who lost their decades-long control of the state Senate in 2018 but won some rotating districts. Democrats say the new maps protect minority voting rights and reflect population loss in upstate communities once considered Republican strongholds.

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Democrats also said there was not enough time to change the maps for the 2022 races and said judges should dismiss the lawsuit because it does not include voters from all districts in the State.

A lower court judge ruled last month that the new New York maps were unconstitutional and said the legislative maps should also be thrown out because lawmakers exceeded their authority when passing them.

Lawyers for the Senate, Assembly and state Governor Kathy Hochul appealed the lower court’s decision and said the judge wrongly limited the power of the Legislative Assembly.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A panel of five mid-level appellate judges began hearing arguments on Wednesday. The case will now be heard in New York’s highest court, where oral arguments could take place as early as next week.

The decision will have major implications for Democrats entering the June 28 primary before the midterm elections in November.

Democrats had anticipated the newly drawn lines would give them an advantage in the election, especially in light of the fact that the Florida Senate recently approved a proposed Congressional map that would help pave the way for big gains from the GOP in the state.

So far this election cycle, the courts have stepped in to block cards they have found to be Republican gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Democratic gerrymanders in Maryland. Such decisions resulted in delayed primaries in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland.

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Republicans make up about 22% of registered voters in New York and currently hold eight of the state’s 27 seats in Congress. But New York now gets one fewer seat after the 2020 census, and the new maps would give Democrats a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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