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Photo Illustration: New York State
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N.Y. judge's ruling puts House Democratic majority in jeopardy

A Republican judge in New York ruled maps drawn by Democrats defied state law. The decision will be challenged in appellate court.


A New York judge on Thursday struck down congressional maps drawn by the state’s Democratic-led Legislature, arguing they were the product of illegal, partisan gerrymandering. 

The maps, which gave Democrats an advantage in 22 of the 26 congressional districts in the deeply liberal state, were seen by many as a counterbalance to the widespread, Republican gerrymandering efforts that have taken hold across the country. Democrats are trying to protect their narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Thursday’s ruling, if upheld, could jeopardize that as the November midterm elections approach.

Each court decision carries tremendous weight, with control of Congress hanging in the balance.

Judge Patrick McAllister, a state court judge and a Republican, issued a ruling saying Democrats controlling the Legislature broke state law with their maps.

In 2014, New York voters approved a constitutional amendment that authorized an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional maps. 

That didn’t go as well as planned

Democrats and Republicans on the evenly split commission couldn’t reach an agreement and sent dueling maps to the Legislature, which rejected the maps and drew its own. But McAllister struck down the Legislature’s maps and ordered Democrats in control to draw maps with “a reasonable amount of bipartisan support to insure the constitutional process is protected.” 

It’s unclear what changes to the maps would meet McAllister’s requirements, but Democrats have vowed to appeal the decision, which could leave the maps in place for this year’s midterms. 

Mike Murphy, spokesman for the state Senate's Democrats, said he expects the decision to be “stayed as the appeal process proceeds.”

McAllister’s decision followed a separate ruling last week finding Democratic-drawn maps in Maryland were illegal. Previously, courts had struck down GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Thursday’s ruling emphasizes the role congressional maps are playing across the country ahead of this year’s immensely consequential midterms. Each court decision carries tremendous weight, with control of Congress hanging in the balance.