Albany’s Democratic Majorities Game The System

Recent events in the New York State Legislature reflect attempts by a majority party—in this case, the Democrats—to game the system to their advantage.

On January 25, 2022, the New York State Assembly voted 101 to 43 to change its rules on debates within the Assembly chamber. The rules change limits debate on an individual bill to four hours and allow each legislator to speak for only one 15-minute period. Historically, the Assembly has not limited debate in this fashion; the lack of a time limit has enabled the minority party to slow down the passage of bills it opposes. Republican lawmakers made passionate arguments against the proposal, but those arguments failed to move the Democratic majority. City & State New York described the rules change as “the latest blow to the already dwindling influence for Republicans not only in the Assembly, but in the state Legislature as a whole.”

On January 27, 2022, the New York Post reported that the Democrats intend to gerrymander New York’s 11th congressional district—currently represented by Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis—in an effort to make the district more heavily Democratic and make it difficult for Rep. Malliotakis to be re-elected. (Because New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission failed to submit agreed-upon redistricting maps to the Legislature in a timely fashion, the Legislature now has the authority to create its own redistricting maps.) At present, the Democratic Party holds large enrollment advantages over the Republican Party in New York’s congressional delegation (19 Democrats to eight Republicans), in the New York State Senate (43 Democrats to 20 Republicans), and in the New York State Assembly (106 Democrats and one Democrat-affiliated Independence Party member to 43 Republicans). Nevertheless, the Democrats reportedly wish to draw district lines that will entrench or even increase their majorities. To be fair, both Republicans and Democrats have histories of gerrymandering in New York, but gerrymandering is wrong no matter who does it. The Legislature is expected to vote on redistricting maps as soon as the week of January 31.