A Steuben County judge has struck down the recently redrawn congressional and legislative maps for New York and ordered the state legislature to wait until March 11.
But Senate and Assembly Democrats quickly appealed the ruling late Thursday night and are expected to seek a stay preventing it from going into effect while the appellate courts weigh. Gov. Kathy Hochul also promised to appeal.
In an 18-page ruling, acting state Supreme Court Justice Patrick F. McAllister said the maps, which are drawn every 10 years after the last US census, were unconstitutional and politically drawn by the Democrat-controlled state legislature became. McAllister said the cards were “invalid and unusable”.
If the ruling stands, it could force the state to postpone its June 28 primary. As of Thursday, the petition to participate in the primary was due to close in the first week of April and the process was based on the cards at the center of the court case.
The state legislature began drawing the maps in January after the state-sanctioned Independent New District Commission, established after a 2014 amendment to the state constitution, failed to agree on a set of bipartisan maps. The hope among good government groups for the creation of the IRC was to take politics out of the mapping process and avoid partisan manipulation.
The ruling dealt a blow to Democratic lawmakers, who were attempting to draw maps that many good government groups said met the party’s political needs.
A Senate Democrat spokesman said they anticipate a stay that would temporarily block its entry into force.
“This is a step in that process,” spokesman Mike Murphy said. “We always knew this case would be decided by the Courts of Appeal. We are appealing this decision and expect that this decision will be stayed pending the appeal process.”
The Democrats appealed to the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division, a mid-level appeals court. But the issue will ultimately be decided by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. Both sides of the case hope the process can be expedited with the primary election fast approaching.
Under McAllister’s ruling, if lawmakers weren’t able to come up with a plan by April 11, the court would hire its own people to draw new maps at the state’s expense.
McAllister warned that the primary could be rescheduled no later than August 23 if the state legislature fails to reach consensus and allow court-appointed mapmakers to conceive new lines. Candidates running for office will again have to spend a few weeks collecting signatures in order to participate in voting for the newly drawn cards.
McAllister’s decision was praised by former Hudson Valley Assemblyman John Faso, who has served as the de facto spokesman for the Republican Party for its new district lawsuit.
The decision was “a victory for the people of New York State,” Faso said.
The state election committee, meanwhile, urged political candidates to continue collecting their ballot signatures based on the current maps during the appeals process. Candidates must submit their signatures next week to secure entry into the June 28 general election.
This story has been updated with new information and a new headline. Brigid Bergin contributed to the reporting.
https://gothamist.com/news/breaking-judge-tosses-out-nys-new-redistricted-maps-declaring-them-unconstituional Richter throws away New York district maps, but Democrats are hoping for a stay