Gerrymandering is an old enough practice that it was named for a Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry, but henceforth in New York it should be spelled jerrymander. See nearby the district that Democrats in Albany have staked out for Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler. Your first instinct might be to grab the cartographer and do a field sobriety test.
But Democrats didn’t draw loopy lines by accident. They did it with partisan malice aforethought. New York is losing a House seat, so it will have 26 districts next year. Today Republicans hold eight. Under the lines Democrats are proposing, the GOP would have the advantage in only four seats, or 15%. New York is a blue state, but not that blue: President Trump won 38% of the vote in 2020.
New York’s jerrymander is another reminder that drawing favorable lines is a bipartisan strategy. It happens every decade, but this time Democrats have been trying to convince the public that it’s some Trumpian threat to the republic. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, urges officials to sign a “Fair Districts Pledge” and “commit to restoring fairness to our democracy.”
What a pose. In reality Democrats and Republicans want the same thing. They want to win. New York’s maps were supposed to be drawn by an independent commission, a good-government reform that voters approved in 2014, with hopes of taking politics out of an inherently political process. But the commission deadlocked and offered two competing plans.
Nonetheless, the map that Democratic commissioners backed, according to one redistricting analyst, left as many as nine House seats competitive for the GOP. Nine of 26 is 35%, which is in the ballpark of Trump’s vote share. Albany could have accepted that plan.
The Albany plan makes moves upstate and on Long Island to erode Republican chances and shore up the Democratic advantage. Don’t expect to hear loud complaints from Holder and company, or for that matter from all the good-government poseurs in the media.
The congressional jerrymander could cost Republicans as many as four or five House seats, which might be the difference that helps Democrats keep their majority in 2022. Redistricting was expected to cost Democrats several seats nationwide this year, but aggressive Democratic gerrymanders in California, Illinois, New Jersey and elsewhere mean they may break even nationwide or even gain a slight edge.
GOP legislators this year have tended to shore up their suburban districts in states like Texas, rather than try to carve up Democratic seats and go for a bigger advantage. The loser is political competition, not Democrats. The most aggressive GOP gerrymanders, as in Ohio and North Carolina, may be overturned by courts.
However the partisanship plays out, this year should be the end of progressive sanctimony that gerrymanders favor Republicans. If Democrats keep their House majority this year, a big reason will be how they rigged districts in Albany, Sacramento and Springfield.
— The Wall Street Journal
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