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Editorial: New redistricting maps shouldn’t be surprising

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

These days, the two major parties more divided than perhaps any time in recent history, and New York State’s new 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 snubbed 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.

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 report 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.

Bizarrely, under the new districts Southold Town will fall under the representation of Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) in Assembly District 1, rather than Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) in District 2. That dramatic change caught the ire of Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who said issues on the North Fork are different from those on the South Fork, adding, “I fear our voices will be eclipsed by the deeper-pocketed voices of the South Fork. We need North Fork representation for North Fork residents.”

As with most anything, 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 very similar almost certainly would have happened. But for now, Suffolk and East End Democrats look at the new 1st District and see a strong chance of flipping it.

All of this is happening as the two parties nationally continue to spit at each other. Last week, the Republican National Committee described the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse.” A number of very prominent Republicans in Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, strongly condemned that move, calling Jan. 6 a “violent insurrection.”

We asked Mr. Zeldin, now a Republican candidate for governor, his position on the RNC action but have yet to get a response.