New York State

Draft house maps released by special master

The map seems to spell bad news for New York Democrats, who could have more competitive general elections than ever.

Jonathan Cervas

The court appointed, neutral special master tasked with redrawing New York’s Congressional and state Senate district maps released a draft version of the map for House districts Monday morning.

An interactive version of the map was posted online by Jonathan Cervas, a scholar on apportionment who was tasked with the job.

The map seems to spell bad news for New York Democrats, who could have more competitive general elections than ever. Cervas seemed to prioritize that, drawing at least eight of the state’s 26 House districts in a way that either party could be competitive in November. The lines have national implications as well. Democrats have a narrow majority in the House of Representatives currently, and are expecting difficult conditions in this 2022 midterm election.

Some Democrats were devastated by the maps. They were deemed “absolutely brutal in what’s likely their most unfavorable environment since ‘94,” Democratic consultant Neal Kwatra said in a tweet.

The initial lines drawn by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and approved in late January would have given Democrats an advantage in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts. 

For example, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ existing district, which covers Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, was redrawn by Democrats to include liberal Park Slope and Sunset Park, creating a more difficult path to re-election. The map submitted by Cervas appears to allow her to retain more conservative parts of the district. “Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R) gets to keep a redder [congressional district 11] . . .  which makes her the clear favorite in a rematch vs. [challenger] Max Rose,” Cook Political report editor and redistricting guru Dave Wasserman tweeted. Malliotakis unseated former Rep. Max Rose in the district in 2020. 

The map is just a draft, with the final Congressional and state Senate maps due Friday, May 20. The public has through Wednesday to submit testimony regarding the maps to Steuben County Acting Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister, who has been overseeing the redistricting process following a successful, Republican-backed legal challenge to the maps passed into law by the state’s Democratic controlled legislature and signed by gov. Kathy Hochul. With that short timeline, observers do not expect major changes to be made to the maps.

Cervas, who holds a PhD in political science and has been involved in redistricting processes across the country, was appointed in April by Judge McAllister, who is overseeing the redistricting litigation. The State Court of Appeals put the process back in McAllister’s control after it ruled last month that the state Senate and congressional maps were drawn in violation of the process established by the state constitution and the latter gerrymandered. 

The Congressional primaries are scheduled for August 23. Candidates that qualified for the ballot under the previous lines will retain their spots on the ballot. But petitioning will open once again, as well, to give new candidates a chance to get their names on primary ballots. 

Meanwhile, there are still some question marks about how the election process will proceed. A new lawsuit filed Sunday in Manhattan Supreme Court seeks to invalidate the Assembly maps and delay the primary election until new lines could be drawn. Two of the three plaintiffs in the case, political gadfly Gary Greenberg and New York Young Republican Club President Gavin Wax previously filed legal action in the Steuben County suit to have the maps tossed, but McAllister tossed out their request last week, stating that while he agreed the Assembly maps were also drawn in violation of the constitution, it was too close to the scheduled June primary to redraw the lines. Queens attorney and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Nichols joined the two in filing the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.