Carnegie Mellon University


April 19, 2022

Jonathan Cervas named special master in charge of redrawing New York State Congressional Maps

By Bill Brink

A New York State judge named Dr. Jonathan Cervas, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for Politics and Strategy and an expert on electoral politics, as the special master in charge of redrawing the state’s Congressional maps.

The judge, State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McCallister, ruled in March that the Congressional maps passed by the state legislature following the 2020 census violated the state constitution.

Cervas serves as the redistricting consultant to the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which recently developed state legislative maps to be used during this decade. Those maps were approved via a bipartisan vote, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously affirmed their constitutionality.

Cervas, who grew up in western Pennsylvania, joined Carnegie Mellon University and IPS prior to the 2020-2021 academic year. He teaches a course called “Representation and Voting Rights,” which explored the theoretical underpinnings of representation as well as the legal and constitutional nature of US institutions and evaluated empirically how well represented the public is. Students also drew their own electoral maps. This fall, he will teach the American Politics Graduate Seminar (offered to some undergraduate students as Advanced Topics in American Politics), which will address Congress, the presidency, bureaucracy, and the courts, but also public opinion, elections, campaigns, political parties, and the importance of geography, wealth, ethnicity, gender, and religion in politics.

Cervas is a specialist in Geographic Information Systems and has worked as an assistant to a federal court Special Master in drawing remedial maps in three redistricting cases involving minority rights. The first of these was Navajo Nation et al v. San Juan County, Utah in 2017; followed in 2018-2019 by Bethune-Hill et al v. State Board of Election, which involved the redrawing of one quarter of the districts in Virginia's legislative districts in the House of Delegates; and in 2019-2020, he worked on Wright v. Sumter County Board of Elections, a case involving school districts in a small Georgia county that is home to President Jimmy Carter. 

Before joining IPS, Cervas earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine. His Bachelor’s degree (also in political science) is from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His dissertation is a historical, quantitative look at the Electoral College and its consequences.