New York Court of Appeals Orders Redrawing of Congressional Maps

On Tuesday, December 12th, New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) will have another chance to redraw New York’s congressional lines. In a 33-page decision, the state’s highest court sided with the Democrats by a 4-3 majority, ordering that the IRC must submit new congressional maps to the Legislature by the end of February. “We are holding the IRC and the Legislature to what the constitution demands and will do so as often as necessary to secure compliance with its mandate,” the decision says. “That said, we trust that the members of the IRC will act as the constitution requires without further needs for judicial intervention. After all, the IRC members, like us, may not ignore our respective constitutional duties.”

The IRC’s last attempt to redraw congressional lines ended in a deadlock along party lines. Because the IRC could not come to an agreement on new lines, the Democrat-controlled Legislature took over the redrawing of the lines, which led to lawsuits accusing the Democrats of gerrymandering and a judge ordering a Special Master redraw the congressional and State Senate maps. Many believe the maps drawn by the Special Master were beneficial to Republicans in swing districts, eventually helping the Republicans narrowly take control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a 27-page dissent, Associate Judge Anthony Cannataro said “nothing has changed” since the court previously struck down the Legislature’s maps in the 2022 decision Harkenrider v. Hochul. “Now, as then, the constitution authorizes judicial intervention in the redistricting process only when circumstances require that the courts remedy a violation of law,” the dissent reads. “Now, as then, we are asked to remedy a constitutional deficiency in the 2022 redistricting process that was attributable to the IRC’s abdication of its constitutional duty. Now, as then, the constitution mandates that the resulting constitutionally enacted and substantively unchallenged maps remain in force until the next federal census. This time, however, politics triumphs over free and fair elections.”

Democrats celebrated the decision and see it as an opportunity to improve their chances in the 2024 election. “Today’s decision is a win for democracy and particularly the people of New York,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Suzan DeBene said in a statement. “We are eager for the Independent Redistricting Commission to get back to work to create a new, fair congressional map – through the process New York voters intended.” Republicans have already vowed to challenge any map they believe violates the state constitution’s gerrymandering ban.