TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Albany announced a decision Thursday, July 13 that ordered New York State’s congressional map to be redrawn.
The decision reignited a political battle that was thought to have ended when the New York Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — rejected congressional maps drawn by the state legislature in April 2022. If Republicans appeal, as they have vowed to do, the case would go to the New York Court of Appeals, which has swung to the left with new appointments since its 2022 decision.
Normally, redistricting only occurs every 10 years following the U.S. Census, unless a court decision overturns the maps drawn for various reasons, including gerrymandering. In this case, the court decided the maps used for the 2022 midterm elections, which had already been the subject of a series of legal challenges and revisions, were merely a temporary solution to the ongoing debate in order to hold the elections.
“In granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design. Accordingly, we direct the IRC to commence its duties forthwith,” wrote Judge Elizabeth A. Garry in the decision.
In New York State, redistricting occurs through the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is bipartisan and evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, pursuant to a referendum in 2014. However, if the commission fails to reach a decision, the state legislature — which has a sizable Democratic majority — can impose a map of their own. That happened in 2022, the IRC’s first foray into redistricting, prompting lawsuits claiming that the legislature’s maps were subject to partisan gerrymandering.
After the Court of Appeals struck down the legislature’s maps, the 2022 district lines were drawn by a neutral, court-appointed expert and were thought to be competitive. That redistricting moved Ithaca, and the rest of Tompkins County, from the 23rd Congressional District to the 19th, which was won by Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) by two percentage points in 2022.
The result of the midterms was a localized “red wave” in New York. Several high-profile Democrats — such as Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the longest-serving New York Democrat in the House and the ranking minority member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the chair of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Accountability — were drawn into the same district and forced to run against each other in primaries.
Republicans, meanwhile, picked up seats in swing districts, including wins by Molinaro and controversial Congressman Rep. George Santos (R-NY). Several outlets, such as the New Yorker, blamed New York’s midterm results for Democrats losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Molinaro’s seat, along with those of fellow Republicans Rep. Mike Lawler, Anthony D’Esposito, and Santos, are among those which could flip Democratic through redistricting, as the commission is expected to split along party lines once again and Democrats in the state legislature are expected to retake control of the process.
Josh Riley (D-NY), who ran against Molinaro in 2022 and is running again in 2024, did not take a stance on the issue, but committed to serving whatever constituency winds up in the district he is eligible to run in.
“I’m running for Congress because Upstate New Yorkers deserve a representative in Congress who fights for them — someone who will strengthen the middle class, protect Social Security, keep our communities safe and defend a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions,” Riley said. “That’s what I’m focusing on, and we’ll see how the legal process plays out in the meantime.”
Molinaro did not provide a comment.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s committee assignment. The article has been corrected to reflect that she was the chair of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, not the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.
Jonathan Mong is a reporter from The Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at the Ithaca Voice.