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New York Legislature OKs gerrymander that could net Democrats 3 more seats

Nationally, Democrats have called for banning gerrymandering, but in Albany, they drew partisan maps that could help them.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside of a closed door meeting with Former White House counsel Don McGahn and the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on June 4, 2021.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside a closed-door meeting with former White House counsel Don McGahn and the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on June 4.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file

New York state Democrats advanced a gerrymandered congressional map Wednesday afternoon, paving the way for Democrats to net as many as three new seats in the U.S. House in November.

The state Assembly passed the bill first, followed by a Senate vote Wednesday afternoon. The new map draws 22 Democratic-leaning districts and four Republican-leaning districts, cutting the number of Republican-leaning districts in half. The state lost one congressional seat because of population losses in the last decade.

Republicans condemned the maps and slammed Democrats for rushing the plan through the Legislature without a single public hearing. The party has suggested that it might challenge the map's legality.

“This is a land grab gerrymander, where Democrats are taking out Republican incumbents,” said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ 11th District will become significantly more liberal after her conservative district in and around Staten Island was paired with the more liberal Park Slope area.

“It’s the people that should be deciding who their representatives are, not the other way around,” she said Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Jerry Nadler's 10th District extends more than 15 miles from Manhattan's Upper West Side through parts of Brooklyn and down to Borough Park and Bensonhurst. Some on Twitter have criticized the district as "jerrymandering." The new political lines mirror Nadler's current district — which extends from Manhattan into Borough Park — but the new map adds the meandering path through Brooklyn, seemingly to accommodate the new 11th District.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a top Democrat, defended the map as fair and legal, dismissing criticism as inaccurate.

“We’re very confident this adheres to the current requirements,” Gianaris told City & State. And if it ends up in court, he added, "we’ll make our case why we believe it does.”

Democrats in Congress spent much of last year fighting for federal voting legislation that would have made attempts at partisan gerrymandering illegal. Republicans blocked the legislation in the Senate, with many of them characterizing the legislation as an overreach designed to benefit Democrats.

But when it comes to New York, some on the left have embraced gerrymandering. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, urged lawmakers to draw 23 Democratic-leaning districts in a memo last week.

The seats aren’t absolute guarantees for Democrats, who face a tough midterm election in November with President Joe Biden’s popularity dropping.

While Republicans have drawn safe seats for themselves in gerrymandered states like Texas, Li said, Democrats in New York have drawn districts with slimmer majorities.

“Democrats have chosen to maximize the number of seats they have, which has meant in places spreading their voters out a little bit more, and that potentially creates some vulnerability in a Republican wave year,” Li said.

The map next heads to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, for her signature.