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Redistricting changes means Dems can win 1st Congressional District

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law last week redistricting maps that would reshuffle congressional and state representation on the East End. 

Under new district lines, Shelter Island will remain in the 1st Congressional District 1. In the Assembly, Southold Town will fall under the representation of Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) in Assembly District 1, the same as Shelter Island, rather than Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) in District 2.

The state’s redrawn 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), favors the Democratic party. Mr. Zeldin did not respond to a request for comment.

NY-01 no longer includes swaths of the South Shore, with part of the district’s southern border cutting through the middle of Suffolk County and the western border through the center, passing the border into Nassau. The North Fork is still included in the district.

New York is losing one of its 27 congressional seats after a population drop in the 2020 census. The newly-passed districts strongly favor the Democrats, with the party gaining another three seats, according to political analysis outlet FiveThirtyEight. There are currently 19 Democrats and eight Republicans in New York’s Congressional delegation.

Fourteen New York residents have already filed a lawsuit against the approved congressional districts, which — left as is — will likely flip the Republican-held 1st, 11th and 22nd districts, according to FiveThirtyEight. The 67-page Republican-led suit accuses Democrats of gerrymandering and argues the new lines violate a 2014 amendment to the state constitution meant to protect against partisan district drawing.

“In the very first redistricting cycle after these landmark constitutional amendments, the Democratic Party politicians who control the New York Legislature and Governor’s office brazenly enacted a congressional map that is undeniably politically gerrymandered in their party’s favor,” the suit says. 

It points to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight, which calls the map “egregiously biased,” and says it was “only possible because of the weakness of New York’s new bipartisan redistricting commission.”

“Under state law, the legislature may simply draw its own map after rejecting the commission’s first two proposals,” the site says. “Even worse, the commission didn’t even work as intended. Its first proposal was actually two maps (one favoring Democrats and one favoring Republicans), and it failed to come to any agreement on a second-round proposal, handing redistricting control to the legislature by default.”

Mr. Zeldin has thrown his hat into the 2022 gubernatorial race, leaving his seat in the House of Representatives up for grabs. With no incumbent in office and a new, more left-leaning voter demographic, the Democratic Party seems to have high hopes for winning the district.

“New York’s 1st Congressional District will be one of the top Democratic pickup opportunities in the country,” Kelly Hardon, campaign manager for County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), said in a Feb. 3 press release. County legislators Ms. Hahn and Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack), who represents Shelter Island in the Legislature, are both competing for their party’s nomination to run for the seat. 

Ms. Fleming similarly said in a tweet after new district lines were released that NY-01 “is one of the best pick-up opportunities in the country.”

Ms. Hahn tweeted that the redrawn district lines do not change “the need to flip this seat in order to hold onto” a Democratic House majority. 

Republican candidate Robert Cornicelli tweeted in a reply to Dave Wasserman, an editor at Cook Political Report, that the “exceptional Dem pickup opportunity” in NY-01 — as Mr. Wasserman put it — “won’t happen.”

Redistricting takes place every 10 years, after the national census. Districts are redrawn based on population changes. The location of district lines determines congressional and state representation. 

Gerrymandering is when redistricting is used to manipulate electoral outcomes or discriminate against certain groups, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

New York’s legislative lines have been drawn by an independent commission since 2014, according to resources from Loyola Law School. The guide notes the lines are “subject to modification by a supermajority of the state legislature.”

A member of the commission sued the state over staffing and funding in March 2021.