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A judge threw out New York's new congressional district map. Democrats aren't happy


Last month, a New York court threw out the congressional district map for the state that was drawn by Democrats. A new map, drawn by an unelected special master, is expected to be finalized as early as today, and Democrats are furious. They already know the new map will force some incumbent Democrats to run against each other, creating more opportunities for Republicans to pick up House seats and improving their chances of taking control of the House in November.

To talk us through the Democrats' political drama is NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hey, Sue.


KELLY: So it seems less than ideal that these maps are still being figured out - what? - nearly halfway through the election year. Why are we here?

DAVIS: Well, you know, Democrats thought they had drawn some pretty good maps. They controlled the entire redistricting process in the state, and the map they drew earlier this year was approved by the state legislature with supermajorities of support. But last month, in a series of court rulings, that map was thrown out. Basically, the courts ruled that Democrats gerrymandered so aggressively it violated the state's constitution. Democrats were trying to shore up their majorities by basically eliminating as much competition as possible for their state's 26 districts. The map they wanted would have created 20 safe Democratic seats, four seats that leaned Republican and just two competitive seats.

So when the court throws out the map, the process calls for a judge to appoint someone who's known as a special master. They are an unelected expert who can draw maps that are more fair and then submit that map back to the court for approval. The draft map was released on Monday and, Mary Louise, it is completely safe to say it has rocked the New York delegation.

KELLY: Rocked the delegation - it's so interesting because drawing up a map sounds like a bureaucratic exercise.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

KELLY: But this - I mean, serious disputes...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Coming out of this, both among Democrats in New York and in the party nationally, right?

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, there are two major complaints among Democrats. First is that the new maps would pit several Democratic incumbents against each other. That includes, notably, two veteran lawmakers - Jerry Nadler, who's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the Oversight Committee. They could now be competing for the same Manhattan-based district.

It's also generated a ton of anger at Sean Patrick Maloney. He's the chairman of the House Democrats' 2022 campaign operation. He's already announced he would run in a new district where his house is located, but that seat is anchored around another Democrat's district - fellow Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones. So that means Jones is going to have to choose whether to run against Maloney or another freshman, Jamaal Bowman. And both Jones and Bowman are Black men, which leads to the second complaint here, and that involves accusations of racism. I mean, Democrats are really mad at this idea of forcing two Black lawmakers to run against each other and essentially dilute Black representation in the delegation in the end 'cause one of them would lose.

And another New York member of Democratic leadership, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, has also echoed these accusations of racism because the new map would divvy up neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that are historically Black. And I want to be clear that the new districts would still be minority-represented districts - it's just not in a way that the incumbents that represent them, like Jeffries, would like them to be.

KELLY: OK. So Democrats are mad. What about Republicans? How are they responding to the new maps?

DAVIS: Oh, this is great news for them. I mean, the new map would not only increase the number of Republican-leaning seats, it would also create as many as five new competitive seats. If you consider so much of the 2022 fundamentals already benefit Republicans - they're already expected to pick up seats, they're already favored to take the majority - this outcome just makes that even more likely.

They also get the political gift of watching Democrats fight it out all summer long. There's a lot of internal fighting, too. I mean, some Democrats, including New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called on Maloney to step aside if he goes through with challenging an incumbent, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that she supports him in that role.

KELLY: NPR's Sue Davis. Thank you.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.