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Partisan gerrymandering dumped, but who’s in for Roosevelt Island?


New York’s highest court rejected Democratic partisan gerrymandering of State Senate and Congressional districts. It has national implications and direct impacts on Roosevelt Island.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Partisan gerrymandering map bites the dust: What’s it mean for Roosevelt Island?

The decision may be bad news for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (center in white). But it left State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright (right) in good shape. Both are seen here at last summer’s opening of the FDR Hope Memorial.

First though: What is partisan gerrymandering?

Partisan gerrymandering is a practice in which electoral districts are drawn to unfairly benefit one political party. This can be done by either packing voters from the opposing party into a small number of districts, or by spreading them out thinly across many districts. This gives the party in control an unfair advantage in future elections.

Partisan gerrymandering can often overturn the will of the voters, as it allows the party in control to pack or spread voters in a way that benefits them. This can lead to unfair outcomes in future elections and can be very frustrating for voters who feel their voices are not being heard.

That’s what Republicans accused Democrats of doing this year. But Democrats were confident with the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, packed with judges appointed by Democratic governors. Instead, today, they got a scathing rejection.

The majority opinion said that the new maps, which aimed at cutting Republican congressional representation in half, violated the New York State Constitution. As a result, the court appointed a special master to redraw the districts and ordered primary elections for State Senate and Congress moved from June to August.

The court’s ruling may have a major impact for Roosevelt Island

First the good — that is stable — news. Because the decision did not affect assembly districts, that leaves the 76th, where Rebecca Seawright is a prohibitive favorite, unchanged. Late today, Seawright told The Daily

State Assembly Member, 76th District, Rebecca Seawright.

“The NYS Court of Appeals today rejected new district lines for Congress and the State Senate. In the same decision, the Court let stand the Assembly district lines for the primary election on June 28. Party nominations for candidates seeking statewide office and other local positions such as district leader are also scheduled for the June 28 primary. We are reviewing and evaluating the impact of the Court of Appeals decision.”

The decision also does not affect voting for governor or lieutenant governor, although the dates may change for the primary.

After that, it’s messy.

On the senate side, Roosevelt Island seems to win no matter what the special master does. The now rejected maps brought the community into the district of Astoria’s Mike Gianaris. Gianaris is an Albany power, #2 in Democratic leadership.

But current senator José Serrano is no slouch at #4, and he’s a longtime advocate for Roosevelt Island. Whichever we get, it looks like a win.

But Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney could be in more trouble

Last election cycle in 2020, Maloney barely scraped by with less than 50% of the vote, even after nearly three decades in office. Progressive challengers split the opposition, but even so, her margin over Suraj Patel was razor thin.

One element of the partisan gerrymander that’s now gone was what looked like an attempt to buffer her against progressives by shifting her Congressional District west deeper into Manhattan while pulling her out of Brooklyn and Queens areas that voted heavily against her.

What the next maps do is unknown as it is with the State Senate. But with the dates changed to August, we’ll have some breathing room to consider choices.

Hang onto your hats, though, it may get rowdy.

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