NY’s top court rejects congressional district maps, primaries likely delayed

New York’s top court threw out the state’s new congressional district lines Wednesday, ruling Democrats gerrymandered them to their favor and failed to follow proper procedures in adopting the new maps.

The Court of Appeals issued a split decision, clearing the way for a court-appointed special master to draw new congressional and state Senate maps.

The ruling marked a major victory for Republicans in New York and nationally, rejecting a congressional map that would have given Democrats – who are clinging to a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives – an enrollment edge in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

But the decision throws New York’s election process into disarray.

The state’s primary elections are currently scheduled for June 28. But the court acknowledged its ruling will likely require the state to push that date back – though it allowed for the possibility that the governor and lieutenant governor primaries to remain in place.

“Although it will likely be necessary to move the congressional and senate primary elections to August, New York routinely held a bifurcated primary until recently, with some primaries occurring as late as September,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Four of the state’s seven Court of Appeals judges agreed with the majority opinion, while three dissented in whole or in part. All seven judges were appointed by Democratic governors.

The ruling comes after Republicans sued to challenge the lines earlier this year. Democrats who control the state Legislature drew the maps in January after a new, bipartisan panel called the Independent Redistricting Commission, or IRC, failed to complete its work.

The IRC process was approved by voters in 2014 and first put into place during the current redistricting cycle, which occurs every 10 years to account for population shifts in the latest Census. The process, laid out in the state Constitution, requires the IRC to send a proposed set of congressional and state legislative district lines to the Legislature for consideration. If lawmakers reject them, the IRC is tasked with sending a second set for consideration.

But this year, the IRC failed to come up with a second set of proposals, gridlocking along party lines. So the Democrat-led Legislature stepped in and drew the lines itself.

The Court of Appeals ruled the Legislature didn’t have the authority to draw the lines, tossing the congressional and state Senate districts. They remained silent on the Assembly lines, which weren’t included in the GOP’s original lawsuit.

The court also upheld the lower courts’ ruling that the congressional maps were skewed to benefit Democrats, who are hoping to pick up a few seats in heavily blue New York, where 19 of the state’s 27 current congressional districts are held by Democrats. (The state lost a seat in the current round of redistricting.)

In a statement, Mike Murphy, a spokesman for state Senate Democrats, said they are “reviewing the decision.”

Now, the task of drawing New York’s congressional and state Senate lines for the next 10 years will fall to Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He was appointed special master by state Acting Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister of Steuben County, where the Republican lawsuit was initially filed.

McAllister has given Cervas until May 24 to come up with new lines, with a hearing scheduled for May 6.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Source : https://gothamist.com/news/back-to-the-drawing-board-nys-top-court-rejects-congressional-district-maps

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