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New York judge orders new congressional redistricting plan

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(The Center Square) — A New York appellate court has ordered the state to redraw congressional lines ahead of the 2024 elections, in a victory for Democrats that Republicans are vowing to appeal.

The 3-2 ruling by the five-member appeals panel sided with plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by backers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee challenging a redistricting map that was put in place ahead of the 2022 midterms following a court challenge over the new political boundaries.

“The procedures governing the redistricting process, all too easily abused by those who would seek to minimize the voters’ voice and entrench themselves in the seats of power, must be guarded as jealously as the right to vote itself; in granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design,” the panel’s majority wrote in the 17-page ruling.

The ruling rekindles a fight over the state’s congressional districts that benefited Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives.

New York voters approved a ballot question in 2014, stripping the Legislature of its role in the once-in-a-decade redistricting and putting it in the hands of an independent commission.

Following the 2020 Census, the Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected the panel’s proposed congressional maps amid a stalemate and approved their districts.

But the Supreme Court ruled the new districts unconstitutional and ordered Cervas and a Republican judge in upstate Steuben County to draw new maps that benefited GOP challengers in House districts in the Hudson Valley and Long Island.

In the midterms, Republicans flipped three seats in New York and won an open race crucial to the party regaining a narrow House majority.

Last June, a group of New York voters filed a lawsuit against the commission, asking the court to require the redrawing of the congressional boundaries, arguing the Legislature failed to consider a second set of maps, as required by the 2014 redistricting law. Gov. Kathy Hochul filed a legal brief supporting the suit, asking the court to order another redistricting plan.

New York Democrats, who would control a new redistricting plan, praised the appellate court’s ruling, pledging to work on new political maps for the state ahead of the 2024 elections.

House Democratic Minority Leader Raheem Jeffries, D-NY, said the state’s current congressional map was “drawn by an unelected, out-of-town Special Master appointed by an extreme right-wing judge, who himself was handpicked by partisan political operatives.”

“It’s important that the Independent Redistricting Commission get to work expeditiously and present a map that fairly reflects the racial, ethnic, cultural, regional and socio-economic diversity of our great state,” he said.

But Republicans are vowing to take the ruling to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, blasting the lawsuit as a “power grab” by the state’s Democrats and citing the state constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting.

“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,” NRCC Communications Director Jack Pandol said in a statement. “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.”

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