Brooklyn, NY, USA – October 24, 2020: People waiting in line for early presidential voting at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Brooklyn amid coronavirus pandemic. (Shutterstock)
By Rachel Holliday Smith, THE CITY
New York’s special master for redistricting has finalized the state’s congressional and state Senate maps, further altering city districts and opening the starting gate for a messy 2022 election season.
In final maps submitted to the Steuben County Supreme Court late on Friday, Jonathan Cervas made some changes to draft maps he first revealed earlier this week, but did not radically alter them.
In Brooklyn, Cervas redrew Sunset Park out of NY-11, a swing U.S. House district spanning Staten Island and Brooklyn, and into the newly made NY-10, a congressional district spanning Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. With the blue neighborhood gone, it could spell an easier chance at reelection for Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island).
In Manhattan, Cervas’ maps have split Manhattan into three distinct parts — Upper Manhattan, Lower Manhattan and the central core including both the Upper West and Upper East sides, and Midtown. That will force two longtime House incumbents, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D) and Carolyn Maloney (D), into a primary together.
In the new NY-10, candidates are already lining up for the plum, heavily Democratic seat. Within the hour of the maps being finalized, Rep. Mondaire Jones (D) of the Lower Hudson Valley and Rockland County announced he would run in the Manhattan-Brooklyn district. On Friday, former mayor Bill de Blasio also announced his campaign for the seat. He will be joined by Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who announced her campaign on Saturday.
In the state Senate, a major reshuffling has scrambled plans for candidates and endangered many incumbents. In court records, Cervas said his new set of maps have created more political competition. His final maps created 12 competitive Senate seats statewide, up from the previous six, according to his explanation.
In Congress, his version of New York’s districts includes eight seats that are competitive, as opposed to the three competitive seats created in maps previously drawn by the state legislature earlier this year.
The maps go into effect immediately, and will be adopted by the state Board of Elections as it prepares a double primary season this summer. New York now has two primary elections, one on June 28 for state Assembly seats and the governor race and one on August 23 for the congressional and state Senate districts drawn by Cervas.
With the midterm congressional elections looming, New York’s redistricting could help deliver control of the House of Representatives to the GOP. At the state level, the rearranging of districts could have a profound effect on longtime incumbents now, in some cases, drawn out of long-held neighborhoods.
The boundaries released by Cervas on Friday are the culmination of a fraught and months-long redistricting process, followed by a legal battle that went through two appeals. It began last year when a newly created redistricting commission tried to create New York’s political boundaries but deadlocked on partisan lines. From there, the Democrat-controlled state legislature drew their own lines. These were challenged in court by GOP-backed plaintiffs.
The state’s Assembly districts survived the legal fight, and remain in effect today. However, a last-hour legal challenge is pending in the State Supreme Court and a hearing is scheduled in that case on Monday.
Is There Bias?
Questions remain, too, about the Cervas-drawn lines. As reported by POLITICO, 22 State Senate districts in New York City and Westchester County drawn by Cervas are identical to a map New York Republicans drafted last year.
As the court released the maps in the middle of the night Friday into Saturday morning, both Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister — who approved the maps — and Cervas defended the process as unbiased.
“Frankly it was remarkable that special master Cervas was able to create both the Congressional and State Senate maps in such a short period of time. He and his team are to be commended,” wrote McAllister.
He added that, though the Republican-backed plaintiffs won the redistricting case, the result is not that they “now get to draw their own gerrymandered maps.”
“This is not a situation where to the victor goes the spoils,” he said. “The court is not politically biased.”
Cervas himself wrote of the many factors he tried to balance when creating the lines, including synthesizing thousands of public comments submitted to the court. He worked with a team of graduate students and consulted with Professor Bernard Grofman, a mentor of his. In a footnote in the court record, he recalled a joke Grofman has about the “many different criteria that a Special Master must pay attention to.”
“It’s like being asked to simultaneously juggle things as diverse as tires, tea pots, and burning torches, with some pennies…thrown in for good measure,” he wrote.
Cervas began his work after the Court of Appeals struck down New York’s congressional and state Senate lines in late April. Cervas was appointed by McAllister ahead of the Court of Appeals ruling.
Candidates and voters both now face a tumultuous primary season. Would-be representatives have rushed in to announce their intentions to run for the newly drawn districts. But those who want to formally get on the ballot have just over a week to do so; the deadline for existing candidates to register for the August primary is May 31, according to the state BOE’s political calendar. New candidates can also join by submitting petitions no later than June 10.
Those running for offices on the docket for the June primary have just over five weeks to make their case to voters — if that election date sticks. Already, the League of Women Voters has sued to force the state to combine both election dates in August.
“The State Board of Elections, apparently with the support of the leaders of both major political parties, put in place a deliberately exclusionary electoral regime for statewide offices designed to limit further competition in the primary and from independent candidates in the general election,” Laura Ladd Bierman, the executive director of LWV, told Spectrum News.
This story was originally published on [May 21, 2022] by THE CITY.”