Democrats’ Redistricting Plan Tangled Up in Court

The ongoing effort by state Democrats to redraw election districts was rejected on April 27 by the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s top judicial body.

As reported in The New York Times, the court said “Democrats violated the State Constitution and ignored the will of the voters. The judges ordered a court-appointed expert to draw replacement lines for this year’s critical midterm elections instead.”

Party primaries originally scheduled for June 28 now appear postponed until August. The Times said the judges did not comment on whether primary elections for governor and State Assembly should be postponed as well.

The Court of Appeals ruling is not subject to appeal.

If and when the new districts are finally adopted by the courts, there could be one significant change in the River Towns. 

Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor, and Pocantico Hills would now be represented by Andrea Stewart-Cousins

The state senate representative in Mount Pleasant (Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor, Pocantico) will change as a new 37th District line removes those towns from their current 40th District. 

Mount Pleasant would now be represented by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, replacing Pete Harckham in the old 40th District. 

The 38th state senate district becomes the 40th district under the new lines but Elijah Reichlin-Melnick will still represent Ossining. 

Mondaire Jones would remain as the U.S. Congressman from Congressional District NY-17 representing all the River Towns. In the state assembly, Tom Abinanti would remain in the 92nd District representing Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant while the 95th district will continue to include Ossining, where Sandy Galef held the seat. 

Galef has announced her retirement from politics after serving for 30 years. She’s endorsed current Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, her former chief of staff. Others seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat include Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith, former Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey, and former Peekskill Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo. On the Republican side, Stacy Halper announced her candidacy and has received the endorsement of the Westchester and Putnam Republican and Conservative parties.

Every ten years, the nation conducts a census as required by Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution. After the results are tabulated, the 425 House of Representatives congressional districts are re-apportioned among the 50 states based on changes in population.  

Because New York state did not grow as fast as some other states, its congressional headcount drops by one, from 27 to 26. Currently Democrats hold 19 New York seats while Republicans have the other eight. 

Mondaire Jones would remain as the U.S. Congressman from Congressional District NY-17 representing all the River Towns.

In 2014 state voters passed a constitutional amendment that created an “Independent Redistricting Commission” intended to shift redistricting out of political clutches and onto an impartial commission divided evenly between the two parties. The commission deadlocked on partisan lines and the state legislature, dominated by Democrats, drew their own lines. 

If the Democrats new lines withstand the court challenge, the split in New York’s Congressional House delegation will most likely change from 19 to 8 Democrat to 22 to 4, leaving New York Republicans weaker than ever. 

With control of the closely-split House in Washington DC up for grabs in the November elections, the New York GOP’s potential loss of four seats could prove decisive. Republicans need to flip six seats in the House to win back control there and block the Biden Administration along party line votes. 

While both Democrats and Republicans gerrymander their maps in the states where they control the levers of power, New York Democrats skill in tilting power to themselves has been described as particularly outrageous by many non-partisan observers. In court papers, the League of Women Voters called on the judges to throw out the Democrats’ district lines. 

“This appeal raises a question of monumental importance: whether the courts will enforce the procedural requirements adopted by the People in the New York Constitution to prevent partisan gerrymandering, which were designed to sharply curtail the Legislature’s power over redistricting,” the papers state. 

“Here, that constitutionally mandated process was indisputably vitiated by a combination of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s (“IRC”) abrogation of its constitutional responsibilities and the Legislature’s brazen disregard of the required process — with predictable consequences.” 

 

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About the Author: Jim Roberts