New York’s highest court rejects new congressional district maps

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York’s highest court on Wednesday rejected the state’s new congressional district maps, which had been widely seen as favoring Democrats.

The state’s Court of Appeals agreed in a ruling with a group of Republican voters who sued, saying that the district boundaries had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered and that the Legislature hadn’t followed proper procedure in passing the maps.

The court said it will “likely be necessary” to move the congressional and state Senate primary elections from June to 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.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt reacted to the decision. 

“The decision today from the Court of Appeals affirms our position that under One-Party Rule, Albany politicians engaged in obvious partisan gerrymandering, violating the State Constitution. Despite a clear directive from the voters of New York, Albany’s ruling class decided to put their political survival ahead of the will of the people,” Ortt said. “From the beginning, our conference has stood in support of fair, independent redistricting. Despite Democrats’ attempts to inject partisan politics into this process, New Yorkers will now get what they voted for. We look forward to a special master producing fair, independent maps for the people of New York.”

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.

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