Has New York’s Democrat-led legislature unconstitutionally passed new maps marking congressional district boundaries for the next decade? That’s one of the questions before a panel of five judges at the center of the appeal, which began hearing arguments on Wednesday.
A group of Republican voters say the cards are indeed gerrymandered and have filed a lawsuit in state court asking them to throw the cards away and postpone the congressional primaries in June until the end of August. They say this would give the state enough time to draft new maps.
Democrats’ attorneys say the cards are more than fair to Republicans, who lost decades-long control of the state’s Senate in 2018 but gained some swing districts. Democrats say the new cards protect minority voting rights and reflect population loss in communities across the state that were once considered Republican strongholds.
Republicans represent approximately 22% of registered voters in New York and currently hold eight of the state’s 27 seats in Congress. But New York will now lose one seat after the 2020 census, and the new maps would give Democrats a large majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.
So far, courts have intervened this election cycle to block cards they believe were Republican gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland. Such decisions have led to postponed primaries in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland.
The New York panel of judges is considering a number of key questions, including whether the Congressional card has been gerrymandered, whether the legislature has exceeded its authority in drafting the cards, and whether Republican voters have the right to use the cards in the first place. to sue. It’s unclear if the judges will release a decision after Wednesday’s live-streamed pleadings in Rochester.
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The GOP lawsuit cites computer simulations by election analyst Sean Trende, who found the cards were gerrymandered.
“It’s every good government group — left, right and center — saying this,” said their attorney, Bennet Moskowitz.
Attorney Alice Reiter, who represents the state Senate, said GOP voters do not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Democrats gerrymanded the cards. She called Trende’s analysis flawed and said no courts have ever thrown away cards based on computer simulations.
“I think the trial was biased, but that’s far from any evidence that it was biased,” she said.
Democrats also say there isn’t enough time to change the tickets for 2022 races, saying the judges should dismiss the lawsuit because there are no voters in all counties statewide.
A lower court last month declared the new New York maps to be unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to redraw them quickly. The judge said Congressional cards in particular had been gerrymanded unconstitutionally, saying the legislative cards should also be discarded because lawmakers overstepped their authority when passing them.
State Senate, Assembly and Government attorneys Kathy Hochul appealed the lower court’s ruling, saying the judge improperly limited the legislature’s power.
An appeals judge this month allowed the lower court judge to hire an expert to draft alternate maps for congressional districts in case the disputed maps are eventually discarded.