Friday, February 3, 2023
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Judge Rejects NY Dems’ Gerrymandered Map, Forces Redraw

'This is a victory for the people of the state and it’s a victory for competitive and fair elections in New York State...'

(Headline USA) A lower-court judge declared New York’s new congressional and legislative district maps unconstitutional Thursday and ordered the legislature to quickly redraw them, a process that could delay the state’s fast-approaching party primaries.

Judge Patrick McAllister said in his surprise ruling that the districts were illegally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats.

The state trial court judge gave lawmakers until April 11 to try again. If the Democrat-controlled legislature can’t come up with “bipartisanly supported” maps quickly, the judge said he would hire his own expert to redraw them, at state expense.

The ruling comes as a rare boon to Republicans, who have faced “sue till blue” lawfare attacks similarly forcing court-forced redraws in states with GOP legislatures.

New York Democrats said they would appeal the ruling and expressed confidence that a higher court would let the election proceed with the maps in place.

“This is one step in the process. We always knew this case would be decided by the appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will be stayed as the appeal process proceeds,” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

In a joint statement, Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, said they intend to appeal.

The state’s primary elections are scheduled June 28, and candidates have already begun campaigning in the illegally drawn districts.

McAllister acknowledged in his opinion that trying to redraw the maps now could upend the election cycle. But he proposed that the state could delay its primaries to as late as Aug. 23 without disrupting the general election.

He said the Republicans who challenged the map had proven “beyond a reasonable doubt that the map was enacted with political bias.”

The maps, drafted by lawmakers and approved by Hochul, ensured that Democrats made up a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the 26 congressional districts the state will have for a decade—a three seat net gain, even as residents fled Democrat taxes and policies over the past several years.

“The enacted congressional map shows virtually zero competitive districts,” McAllister wrote.

Republicans currently hold eight of New York’s 27 seats in Congress.

The judge, who sits in a rural, central New York county in one of the state’s more conservative bastions, acknowledged in his order Thursday that his ruling was unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

An appeal could send the case to a mid-level state appeals court or New York’s Court of Appeals, who could set the judge’s decision aside. All seven members of that court were appointed by Democrats.

Former GOP U.S. Rep. John Faso, a spokesperson for the plaintiffs, said Democrats “joyfully” violated a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering.

“This is a victory for the people of the state and it’s a victory for competitive and fair elections in New York State,” Faso said.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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