Op-Ed | New Yorkers deserve political options

A sign directing voters at the entrance of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Manhattan.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

New York Democrats just got caught being exceedingly undemocratic, and New Yorkers of all political persuasions should be grateful for it. 

In a blistering State Supreme Court decision over the Democrat’s extreme partisan redistricting plan that would limit viable political options for New York voters over the next decade, State Supreme Court Justice Patrick F. McAllister excoriated Democrats: 

“Gerrymandering discrimination hurts everyone because it tends to silence minority voices,” he wrote. “Then none of us receives the benefit from the input of the silenced. Imagine a society where only Democrats are able to work on cancer research or only Republicans could be board certified as heart surgeons. Imagine all the accomplishments and discoveries that would never come to pass because the majority thought it best to eliminate minority positions or views.”

Some New Yorkers may be confused about the proposed decennial congressional, state senate and assembly reapportionment lines — and for good reason. Didn’t we just pass a Constitutional amendment to create an Independent State Redistricting Commission (IRC) to stop all this partisan nonsense?

We did, indeed, in 2014, but the Democrats, who control both houses of the state legislature and the executive chamber, summarily rejected proposed IRC lines. Instead of hearing the will of the voters, Democrats, led by Governor Kathy Hochul, used legislative tricks and the blunt power of their majorities to force through lines that would virtually guarantee Democrat wins for the next 10 years in all but a handful of New York districts.  

Judge McAllister didn’t buy it: “The court finds by clear evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias in violation of Art. Ill §4(c)(5),” he ruled on Thursday. 

The Democrats, predictably, have appealed, so this fight is nowhere near over.  

This isn’t the first time New York Democrats have worked against the will of the voters to consolidate power. Last year, New Yorkers overwhelmingly rejected a set of ballot initiatives that would have weakened boards of election’s ability to stop voter fraud and allowed Democrats to circumvent IRC lines. Within days of that vote, Mrs. Hochul signed legislation to subvert the voters’ decision. 

A year before, Democrats — again using the blunt power of their super majority in Albany — set out to eliminate third party ballot lines by drastically increasing the required vote threshold to establish a recognized political party in New York State. Only the Conservative and Working Families Party survived the purge.

All these actions reveal the Democratic Party’s naked ambition for New York. They will make this a one-party state come hell or high water, the will of the voters be damned. 

But New York faces daunting economic, criminal justice and educational challenges, and all voices and ideas should be welcome at the table of public discourse. Voters — not politicians — can then decide the direction in which they wish to take the state. 

It’s called democracy. 

Every New Yorker — liberal, conservative or moderate — should hope the State Court of Appeals affirms Thursday’s Supreme Court decision. Voters deserve options.   

Jerry Kassar is Chairman of the New York State Conservative Party