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New York’s high court orders congressional district maps to be redrawn

The New York Court of Appeals building in Albany.
Wangkun Jia
Adobe Stock
The New York Court of Appeals building in Albany.

New York state’s high court has ruled that congressional districts in New York, reconfigured for the 2022 elections, can be redrawn again for the 2024 elections.

In a 4-3 decision, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission must be given another chance to redraw the state’s congressional districts for the 2024 elections.

In the opinion, recently appointed Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote that “indisputably, the Constitution requires” the commission to “deliver a second set of maps.”

“The People of New York are entitled to the process set out in the Constitution, for which they voted,” he wrote.

The redistricting process in New York was revised in a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014.

The ruling is expected to have an impact on the fight for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Independent Redistricting Commission, tasked with drawing the new lines to respond to the 2020 census data, gridlocked in 2022. Democrats who controlled the state Senate and Assembly drew new districts.

The high court determined that those lines were unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and a special master was appointed to redraw the congressional districts.

The Court of Appeals in 2022 also found that the State Legislature should have given the independent redistricting commission a second chance to redraw the maps, as required under the state’s constitution, but they didn’t.

In the elections that November, four Democratic House seats flipped to Republicans, and contributed to the Democrats’ loss of party control of the house. Critics blamed the Democrats in the state legislature who drew the maps for overreaching.

The Independent Redistricting Commission will now reconvene and has until Feb. 28 to submit new maps. If the five Democrats and five Republicans on the commission once again cannot agree on a single set of maps, Democrats who lead the Legislature will be allowed to intervene and draw the maps themselves.

The makeup of the state’s highest court has changed since the 2022 decision that threw out the Democrats’ maps. Since then, former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has resigned, and Wilson was appointed after Senate Democrats rejected Hochul’s earlier choice for the job.

In statements, Ed Cox, the head of the state’s Republican Party, North Country GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik and state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt accused the Democrats of “stacking” and unfairly politicizing the court.

Ken Jenkins, the chair of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, said in a statement that, “We are pleased with the Court of Appeals’ decision and look forward to getting back to work with our colleagues as soon as possible to ensure that New York’s voters receive the benefit of the historic redistricting reforms they voted for in 2014.” 

In a joint statement, Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James said, “Today's redistricting decision will ensure all New Yorkers are fairly and equitably represented by elected officials. As the Court of Appeals reaffirmed today, district lines should be drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission. We will continue our efforts to protect voting rights for all New Yorkers.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.