Court Sits on District Lines in New York Case

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals reviewed legal arguments about whether the revised district boundaries should stay in effect, allowing Democrats to scoop up three seats in Congress.

The verdict is scheduled for the end of the week. Most of the questions from judges chosen by Democrats said they were still thinking about them at this point.

The state’s top court’s decision will determine how many Democrats or Republicans are voted into the House in New York. Democrats now have 19 of 27 seats, but are losing one this year.

Gerrymandering

On Tuesday, some of the debate centered on the issues raised in the lower courts, where the boundaries were tossed out last week.

Did the Democratic-majority legislature have the power to draw the lines when a panel charged with drafting two advisory plans never concluded its job?

Is there proof that the boundaries were gerrymandered?

The questioning seemed to imply numerous justices recognized that the lines were troublesome, but saw no practical way to improve them without involving another department of authority ahead of the June 28 congressional primary.

“Can it be returned to the [panel that drew draft plans the year before]?” inquired Judge Rowan Wilson.

“Does it go straight to the legislature if a gerrymander is found?” Judge Singas inquired.

It’s also possible the courts will draw the lines. Though it’s not clear if those will come via a procedure launched earlier this month by a lower court in Corning or another mapmaker.

The lawmakers would have to redesign the maps by 2024 if they were handed to them.

Democratic lawyers said the issue was too complicated to start again without help from other courts.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’s lawyer, Eric Hecker, made a big deal out of District 11, currently held by Republican Staten Island Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

More Questions

“We have uncontroverted evidence that District 10 was created to unify Chinese American neighborhoods that had been fractured. As a result, the partisanship in District 11 shifted,” Hecker added.

“If this court invalidates the plan without indicating which districts are invalid, what are we to do with Region 11?”

“Is it necessary to re-crack the Chinese American population to make the adjacent Staten Island district more Republican? That would be extremely troublesome, and the courts would avoid it.”

Of the judges, Jenny Rivera was a Democrat. She also said the legislature could draw its borders more quickly than Democratic lawyers said.

Judge Michael Garcia sounded the most doubtful. Because the 2021 redistricting plan was rejected, he said that shows people want to redistrict to be separate from the legislature.

Each of the court’s judges was appointed by Democratic Governors Andrew Cuomo or Kathy Hochul. Still, Garcia is perhaps the most Republican. He had high-level positions in George W. Bush’s administration.

“It’s always difficult to predict how a case will turn up while listening to oral argument,” said former New York Rep. John Faso (R). “I think we have a solid case. We’ll have to wait and see how the court rules.”

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