Behold the latest oddities of redrawn congressional districts that Democrats who control the State Legislature unfortunately are preparing to approve this week. In a heavy-handed effort to maximize Democratic advantage nationally in the upcoming battle for the House of Representatives, Albany’s map-crafters came up with a few glaring caricatures of modern gerrymandering.
First in show in the category of Long Island doodling is the 3rd Congressional District represented by Democrat Tom Suozzi, who’s running for governor instead of reelection. The soon-to-be CD3 runs through five counties, five towns, and three cities — with Long Island Sound in the middle. For cynical fun, perhaps rival candidates could compete in the first Robert Moses memorial boat race between Rye and Oyster Bay, since no bridge was ever built to connect them.
That ridiculousness was needed in part to help try to flip an adjoining district from red to blue. The new CD1, to be vacated by Long Island’s other major-party candidate for governor, Republican Lee Zeldin, has an eccentric wobble all its own as it stretches from Montauk and Orient more than 85 miles west to Farmingdale. So much for the good-government goal of compactness and keeping local jurisdictions whole.
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler's new, very twisty CD10 reaches south all the way to the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn from Manhattan's Upper West Side. And the rightward tilt of Staten Island Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ CD11 is unsurprisingly diluted by bluer parts of Brooklyn.
When Republicans do this in red states, Democrats righteously protest. Here, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee might as well have used an Etch A Sketch of its own to harvest members.
These old-fashioned results-oriented maps could have been anticipated a decade ago when ex-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders abandoned a plan for a more independent process and decided to keep the political ties with a "nonpartisan" redistricting commission. As widely predicted back then, the bipartisan panel fell short of agreeing on a single plan, defaulting to the legislature; Republicans complicit with the plan then may not have fully anticipated the current Democratic supermajority that leaves them in the cold.
With key Republican states skewing the playing field the same way, and House margins so close, Democrats claim a political rationale to justify their gerrymander. Party chairman Jay Jacobs has said he would not unilaterally disarm.
The problem isn't just partisanship. Letting those who benefit draw the maps also means the party powerful get to tilt districts against those they see as rebels and reformers. Even the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice calls New York's plan an "aggressive gerrymander," suggesting it could be struck down under the very same voting-rights proposals Democrats are trying to push through Congress.
This contrived map underscores the need to try again for independent line-drawing in a new constitutional amendment process before the decade is over.
If only for exposing the hypocrisy, perhaps Albany Democrats deserve backhanded thanks.
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