New York redistricting body approves new US House maps that may help Democrats

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 4:28 PM

By Makini Brice and Joseph Ax

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York independent commission approved a new congressional map and sent it to the state’s legislature for passage, potentially giving an edge to Democrats as the parties jockey for control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

The New York commission’s new map is slightly advantageous to Democrats but not overwhelmingly so, according to experts. The lines appear to boost Democratic chances of ousting one first-term Republican while making two other districts – one held by Democrats and one by Republicans – safer for the incumbents.

Republicans’ narrow majority in the chamber will be 219-213 when Democrat Tom Suozzi is sworn in in the weeks ahead following his Tuesday night election win.

Every U.S. state must redraw congressional districts after the decennial census, which also determines how many seats each state is apportioned. New York lost a seat in the 2020 count.

In 2022, a judge jettisoned the map New York had drawn and put in place a more politically competitive one. Partly as a result, Republicans flipped four Democratic seats, almost single-handedly giving the party its majority in the House.

In December 2023, the state’s highest court tossed that map and ordered a new one. In two 9-1 votes on Thursday, the commission approved its new map and sent it to the legislature.

“This vote is ultimately a victory for the commission process and for democratic – small ‘d’ – democratic participation in the state of New York,” said Ken Jenkins, the chair of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, at the public meeting.

The state legislature, controlled by a Democratic supermajority, must approve any new map and could draw its own more favorable one in a process known as gerrymandering. The legal battle that spawned this map initially kicked off when Democrats drew a heavily gerrymandered map that aimed to give their party an advantage in 22 of 26 districts.

All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for re-election in November.

The narrow majority has proven fractious for House leaders.

This week alone, Speaker Mike Johnson yanked a surveillance bill from a floor vote, saying he was still working to reach consensus on it, and the House held a second vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after the first one failed when three Republicans opposed it.

(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)