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New York's highest court rejects state's new congressional district maps drawn by Democrats

New battle lines will need to be drawn for New York's congressional and state Senate seats after the redistricting maps were ruled unconstitutional.

News 12 Staff

Apr 27, 2022, 6:27 PM

Updated 783 days ago

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New battle lines will need to be drawn for New York's congressional and state Senate seats after the redistricting maps were ruled unconstitutional.
In a 32-page document, the Court of Appeals found those maps to be unconstitutional, in part, when Democrats came up with new battle lines themselves.
"There's an old expression that says, 'may you live in interesting times.' We are in interesting times," says political expert Bill Serratore. "I do think that the ruling is coming from a good place of, let's make this as fair for everyone as possible. But interesting that it happens at this late hour," says Serratore. 
These are the blocked congressional districts for the area.
The proposed map would have given Democrats a majority in 22 of 26 seats in New York.
A 2014 amendment was supposed to have an independent redistricting commission come up with nonpartisan lines.
However, lawmakers were deadlocked, so the state Legislature drew its own.
Before Wednesday's decision, two lower courts already ruled that the map was partisan gerrymandering.
"This was a big win today not for Republicans but for the people in the state of New York," says Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler. 
"This is a great first step to ensure free and fair elections in state of New York to ensure that voters will have a legitimate choice," says Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler. 
A spokesman for the state Senate Democrats sent a statement saying they disagree with the decision, particularly when it comes to the state Senate maps and they will.
Also in the ruling, a court appointed "special master" will redraw maps, which News 12's research found will need to be finalized by May 24.
The court says congressional and state senate races "will likely" need to be postponed from June until August.  
A lower-level court had also ruled that the maps were unconstitutional and had given the Legislature an April 30 deadline to come up with new maps or else leave the task to a court-appointed expert.
The legal fight over New York's redistricting process could be a factor in the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of the U.S. House.
New York is set to lose one seat in Congress in 2021. New York’s new maps would give Democrats a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts. Right now, Republicans currently hold eight of the state’s 27 seats.
Democrats had been hoping that a redistricting map favorable to their party in New York might help offset expected losses in other states where Republicans control state government.
Political district maps across the nation have been redrawn in recent months as a result of population shifts recorded in the 2020 census.
Under a process passed by voters in 2014, New York’s new district maps were supposed to have been drawn by an independent commission. But that body, made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, couldn't agree on one set of maps. The Democratic-controlled Legislature then stepped in and created its own maps, quickly signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Republicans then sued, seeing to have the maps tossed for violating a provision in the state constitution barring the redrawing of districts for partisan gain. Similar legal battles have been playing out in several other states.
The legal battle has moved quickly through the courts, but not fast enough to quell uncertainty about the primary, now scheduled for June 28.
In the meantime, candidates have had to begin campaigning in the new districts, even as they are unsure whether those districts will still exist by the time voting begins.
The Director of Public Information for the State Board of Elections issued the following statement today regarding the Court of Appeals’ decision in the Harkenrider v. Hochul case.  
“The attorneys for the State Board of Elections are reviewing today’s decision by the Court of Appeals in the Harkenrider v. Hochul case.  The State Board staff stands ready to assist the Supreme Court in any way we are called upon to quickly develop a new Political Calendar for an August primary for the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.  We do not foresee the June 28th primary changing for our statewide offices, the State Assembly, Judicial Delegates and Alternates and any local offices that are scheduled to be on the primary ballot.  Whatever adjustments need to be made to the ballot access process for candidates for Congress and State Senate for a new primary will be proposed to the court.  We will do everything in our power to inform the electorate to ensure a fair and accurate election for the voters of New York.”  


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