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Redistricting for a Fair Fight

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 17:21


Nick LaLota’s re-election chances improved this week after a State Legislature committee opted against radically reshaping New York Congressional District 1. Now, Mr. LaLota will face the winner of a Democratic primary recently made more interesting with John Avlon’s announcement that he would seek the nomination.

Mr. Avlon is a former CNN commentator and a founder of the No Labels group that has been toying with backing a third-party presidential run. It may take his kind of celebrity status to win the district; Mr. LaLota beat Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, by 11 points in 2022. There are others in the mix, including Nancy Goroff, who lost to Lee Zeldin in 2020.

The map could change things but not by much. After a court tossed an independent map in December, Republicans anticipated the worst. Instead, the Democrats’ plan only tweaked boundaries that had been in effect from 2012 to 2022. The mild revisions made public on Tuesday may help avoid legal challenges from the right. And they appear to level the political playing field in a state that had a significant role in the G.O.P.’s taking control of the House of Representatives last time.

Every 10 years, congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly districts are reapportioned based on the federal census. But after the 2023 election, voters were shifted around by an independent redistricting commission in a map that the state’s top court rejected in a 4-to-3 decision. In place of the commission’s map, the court said the process had to follow the New York Constitution, which calls for a consensus-based approach followed by approval from the State Legislature — where Democrats have a supermajority. This was to be voted on yesterday.

The earlier alternative drawn by Democrats last year for the First District — part of the statewide map deemed excessively gerrymandered — had reached like a claw into several Black and Hispanic-dominated areas that went for Biden in heavy numbers. It would have divided the center of the Island in two right down the middle and it poked into Nassau County as well, in an obvious attempt to find more moderates and left-leaning voters. The middle-ground map now likely to prevail might anger some partisan Democrats, but it appears to represent more evenly a politically diverse district.

In the new map, C.D. 1’s new lines would extend modestly into western Suffolk, slightly diluting Republican strength, but not by nearly as much as the G.O.P. feared. New potentially Democratic votes may come by incorporating areas such as around Northport and parts of Huntington Station, which went Joe Biden’s way in 2020 — or were at least less overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Neither side may like it, but a fair fight seems like real democracy.

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