New Draft NY Congressional Maps Give Gerrymandered Middle Finger To Democrats
The New York State Court of Appeals dealt a major blow last month to the Democratic Party’s hopes of retaining control of the House of Representatives. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed in 2015, said the congressional and state Senate maps Democrats drew were “procedurally unconstitutional.” DiFiore slammed the congressional map in particular as having been “drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.” Well, obviously. We’re trying to hold back fascism and Republicans have successfully passed overtly partisan maps in Florida and Ohio. New York was where Democrats hoped to hold back those Republican gains. But instead the replacement mapmaking process was handed over to Steuben County Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister — a Republican — who assigned the task to Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The new maps for New York’s 26 congressional districts dropped Monday, and they're a giant clusterfuck. The original maps would’ve made Democrats clear favorites in 22 out of 26 districts, with little chance for upsets even in a tough year like this one.
The maps proposed by Cervas would lead to 21 districts where Democrats would have an edge based on their performance in past elections. But that edge is extremely slim in at least five of these seats, leading to multiple races that will likely be considered toss-ups. In a couple of others, a Republican upset is far from implausible.
The proposed maps also cram existing Democratic representatives into the same districts. Here are some of the lucky contestants on "Early Retirement From Congress!"
Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke both live in the new ninth congressional district. Clarke has served in Congress since 2007 and has represented the current ninth district since 2013. Longtime Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney will now share a district. Previously, Manhattan was divided by Nadler’s West Side district and Maloney’s East Side district. The new map splits Manhattan north to south, which makes absolutely no sense. Freshman Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones will share a solidly Democratic southern Westchester seat.
The maps aren’t yet final, but if they stand, incumbents could choose to run against each other in the upcoming June primary. Members of Congress aren’t legally required to live in the communities they represent. They’re like the cops that way. So, some members might scout out a nearby friendly district. This is presumably how democracy should work.
Maloney and Nadler have served in the House for 30 years and neither plan to leave. Maloney tweeted Monday afternoon, “I am proud to announce that I will be running to continue to represent the 12th Congressional District. A majority of the communities in the newly redrawn NY-12 are ones I have represented for years and to which I have deep ties.”
I am proud to announce that I will be running to continue to represent the 12th Congressional District. A majority of the communities in the newly redrawn NY-12 are ones I have represented for years and to which I have deep ties #NY12 #TeamMaloney— Carolyn B. Maloney (@Carolyn B. Maloney) 1652726445
Nadler released the following statement: “I believe these newly proposed lines by the Special Master” — that’s what they’re calling Cervas — “violate the NYS constitutional requirements of keeping communities of interest together and keeping the cores of existing districts largely intact. However, provided that they become permanent, I very much look forward to running in and representing the people of the newly created 12th district of New York.”
His announcement came 20 minutes earlier than Maloney’s, but punctuality won’t determine the outcome of this race.
Wow. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) says he'd run in #NY12, putting him on a collision course with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) after all.https://twitter.com/npfandos/status/1526260161601589248\u00a0\u2026— Dave Wasserman (@Dave Wasserman) 1652724049
House Democratic Caucus Chair Jeffries was less sanguine about the proposed map. He tweeted Monday afternoon, "The draft redistricting map viciously targets historic Black representation in NY, and places four Black members of Congress into the same district. This tactic would make Jim Crow blush. The draft map is unacceptable, unconscionable & unconstitutional."
Jeffries argued that the proposed maps are “part of a vicious national pattern targeting districts represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.” He added, "Shame on everyone involved who have brought us to this point.” It’s not clear that those responsible are capable of much shame.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."