Democrats in New York State have suffered a setback to their congressional and state senate primary election ambitions. On Tuesday, May 10th, the highest court in Albany ordered that the congressional primary and state senate elections be pushed back to August to allow the redrawing of the congressional districts map. The Democrats intended on using a map that was seen as heavily gerrymandered, having been drawn in such a way that it would favor their electoral ambitions. According to reports, the aforementioned map had Democrat-heavy areas drawn into historically Republican districts. This map was deemed unconstitutional by the court as it broke rules that prevented political gerrymandering. The Democrats appealed this decision in federal court but were unsuccessful.
The map of districts will be redrawn in a process known as redistricting, which is usually carried out every decade. This process is carried out to allow a fairer proportion of voters for either party, Democrats or Republicans, in a district. The imminent redrawing of the district map can be seen as a disadvantage to the Democrats because it will change a previously beneficial setup. The primaries for the positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and the assembly will take place as scheduled on June 28th while the congressional and state senate primaries will be held on August 23rd.
The redistricting will be carried out by neutral special master Jonathan Cervas, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University. Cervas was appointed in a hearing by a court in Bath, a town in Steuben County on Friday, May 6th. During his redrawing process, he will listen to input from people and politicians from New York in regards to how the maps should be drawn.
This hearing led to protests by Representative Hakeem Jeffries, who criticized the hearing in a television advertisement. Jeffries highlighted how Steuben County is not the most convenient place to get to for the average New Yorker. “You can’t get there by plane. There’s no train. The bus? It takes ten hours,” Jeffries says in the ad. “If someone makes it impossible for you to be heard, chances are they don’t want you to be [heard].”
Jeffries felt as though the location of the hearing was unfair to the people in his district, who are mostly people of color. He has gone to great lengths to make sure every person’s voice is heard. Representative Jeffries wrote a letter to the judge supervising the redistricting process requesting that additional hearings take place in New York City and other cities in the state. “Millions and millions of voters, here in New York City, throughout downstate New York, are unable to have their voices heard in this redistricting process,” Jeffries said at a media event. “That is unacceptable. That is unconscionable. That is un-American.”