Josh Marshall wrote on Friday about a major court decision out of Wisconsin that could have a significant impact on the makeup of that state’s legislature, famous in recent years for being gerrymandered in favor of Republicans to an almost comic degree.
Its one of a number of redistricting fights we’re watching heading into 2024. My colleague Kate Riga will have more tomorrow on how four others — in Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas — interact with a long-running effort on the right to chip away at Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
With Nicole out on a much-deserved holiday vacation, I wanted to use this space to look at another gerrymandering dispute that we haven’t given much attention to in recent months, but that could be hugely important. New York’s years-long fight over its districts is continuing to play out slowly and convolutedly — but the question of whether the state has new maps by November 2024 may determine control of Congress.
In 2022, Republicans picked up three House seats in New York — largely because, just six months before the election, the state got new district maps drawn by a court-appointed special master.
Now, in 2024, it looks like the state might have new maps again. On Dec. 12, New York’s top court kicked the maps to the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, a board with equal numbers of Democratic- and Republican-appointed commissioners. The IRC has until Feb. 28, 2024, to create new district maps, which the state legislature will then vote on. Democrats have supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.
If the legislature rejects the IRC’s maps, it can draw its own.
That creates the possibility that 2024’s maps will be ones which state Democrats have endorsed and, possibly, drawn themselves.
It’s not totally clear that that Democratic dream scenario will come to pass. The process I just described broke down in 2022. This month’s court order sets up a slightly smoother process than last time, with wonky details I won’t go into here. But still, New York’s redistricting process seems designed to invite legal challenges, which Republicans promise to bring, and stalemates.
In 2022, that meant a court-appointed special master, who ultimately ended up drawing a very competitive map, to Democrats’ chagrin. That late intervention may well have lost Democrats the House, kicking off this current era of the McCarthy-Johnson speakership, and also delivered us one of 2023’s punchlines, George Santos. The fraudster-turned-member of Congress was running in a heavily Democratic district that the state court’s independent expert transformed, six months before Election Day, into a competitive one. Santos himself seemed surprised and not entirely thrilled with the special master’s work, as Kate Riga and Josh Kovensky reported last January.
We’ll continue to watch how this journey through New York’s legislature and courts plays out. But before any of that, we’ll have a special election to fill Santos’ seat, on Feb. 13, 2023 — an election that may shrink Republicans’ majority even before 2024.
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