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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Losers and winners in redistricting

With new redistricting maps signed into law last week by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), a lot changed politically on Long Island and across the state.

These days, the two major parties are more divided than perhaps at any time in recent history, and New York State’s new district maps show that the Democratic majority in Albany can gerrymander with the best of them.

Political gerrymandering is defined as the manipulation of boundaries with the goal of giving one party the advantage when voters go to the polls. A glaring example of this was just provided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which restored a congressional map in Alabama that is overwhelmingly favorable to Republicans.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court thumbed its nose at the 1965 Voting Rights Act and allowed the state’s GOP leadership to draw the lines in such a way that six of Alabama’s seven congressional districts will surely be held by Republicans.

In other words, just one Alabama district is now favorable to a Black candidate — this in a state in which Black people represent 27% of the population. This is a major blow to voting rights advocates and Democrats in a year when political control of the House of Representatives will be decided.

But Democrats have no right to cry foul. Hypocrisy is a vice shared by both parties.

Under New York State’s new maps, the 1st Congressional District, represented by Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), now may favor the Democratic party. A large portion of the South Shore has been removed from the district and its western border now pushes into Nassau County. The North Fork, now leaning Democratic, remains in the 1st District.

As we reported in our story, New York will lose one of its 27 congressional seats based on a population drop in the 2020 census. The new districts strongly favor the Democrats, with the party possibly gaining another three seats, according to political analysis outlet FiveThirtyEight. There are currently 19 Democrats and eight Republicans in New York’s congressional delegation.

A major fallout of redistricting, which occurs every 10 years, is that districts become far less competitive, with one party dominating. We’ve all seen some political maps that are a crazy quilt of funny lines that, by their appearance, show the process of drawing them to be incredibly biased.

As with most everything these days, lawsuits have been filed against the new district maps. The GOP-led lawsuit says the Democratic majority in Albany “brazenly enacted a congressional map that is undeniably politically gerrymandered to their party’s favor.”

True, and if Albany were in Republican hands, something similar would have happened.

The biggest loser? Easy. Representative democracy.