Congressional scrutiny could hinge on this redistricting ‘special master’ in New York

Oversight of the House of Representatives could rest with a court-appointed special master in New York tasked with drawing new lines from Congress and the state Senate in the coming weeks following a decision by the most The state’s high court dismissing the gerrymander endorsed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic lawmakers weeks ago.

Democrats had hoped politically favorable maps in the Empire State would help them defend their slim majority in the U.S. House while maintaining their supermajorities in the Senate and State Assembly.

The Court of Appeals, however, eventually sided with a lower court ruling that found the redrawn lines to be unconstitutional.

That means Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, is now the special master tasked with drawing the new maps for Congress and the state Senate.

“Jonathan Cervas is a highly respected, nonpartisan election expert,” said Jeff Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School who worked with Cervas in a Tennessee redistricting case. “[He is] is not likely to be influenced by any political party. He will avoid this as much as possible.

Jonathan Cervas is the special master in charge of drawing the new maps for Congress and the State Senate.

State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister appointed Cervas earlier this month ahead of the Court of Appeals’ decision to outlaw pro-Democrat maps under a 2014 amendment to the state constitution prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. He previously worked on redistricting efforts across the country, including maps in Pennsylvania that received bipartisan support.

“I am thrilled to help the courts of New York provide constitutional maps that will ensure equal representation for all New York residents for the next decade,” Cervas said in a brief statement to the Post. He did not specify the timeline and process he expects to redraw the maps of Congress and the state Senate.

The Assembly map will hold because the GOP has not specifically challenged it in court.

John Faso, a former congressman who advised plaintiffs to challenge the cards, said he expects the Board of Elections and the courts to agree to a shortened petition period requiring fewer signatures for candidates are running for election in an Aug. 23 primary for Congress and the Senate.

New York State Supreme Court
The Court of Appeal ruled the redrawn lines unconstitutional.
Getty Images/Mike Coppola

“Jonathan Cervas seems to have the qualifications to do the job. We are confident that his work will be overseen by Judge McCalllister,” Faso told The Post on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Critics of the now-cancelled Congressional and State Senate maps have noted how much Democrats stand to gain under the maps that state lawmakers approved weeks ago.

This includes the addition of super blue Park Slope to the swing Staten Island neighborhood currently represented by Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

Another district would have added parts of the Bronx and Westchester to a Nassau-based district. The new boundaries extended just beyond the Westchester residence of State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who is currently running in the primary to replace Democratic Representative Tom Suozzi.

The now-cancelled state Senate map also reportedly caused headaches for Republicans like State Sen. Daphne Jordan, who discovered her residence was placed in a nearby district.

“I give the special master the benefit of the doubt as a neutral party,” Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy told reporters Thursday during a virtual press conference.

A spokesman for the state Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, said in a statement that they still believe in the constitutionality of the new maps, but will work with the special master to develop maps that are as close as possible. of what Albany lawmakers approved along party lines. weeks ago.

“The State Senate maps in particular have corrected blatant partisan gerrymander and have not been overturned on the merits by any court,” Murphy said in the statement. “We will present our case to the special master appointed by the court.”

New York Post

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