ALBANY, N.Y. — A mid-level appellate court ruled late Thursday that the congressional maps enacted by New York Democrats in early February were improperly gerrymandered and has given lawmakers a little over a week to come up with a new plan.
The case is expected to quickly be heard by the Court of Appeals, New York’s top court, where every judge was appointed by Democrats. Oral arguments could occur as soon as next week.
The ultimate decision could determine how the lines are drawn for the state’s 26 congressional districts ahead of the June 28 primary and November elections. Democrats were hopeful the new lines could lead to a few pickups in November, but the court said the lines were not fairly drawn.
“Democratic leaders in the legislature drafted the 2022 congressional redistricting map without any Republican input, and the map was adopted by the Legislature without a single Republican vote in favor of it,” a decision from three of the five judges on the court said.
“Under the 2012 congressional map there were 19 elected Democrats and 8 elected Republicans and under the 2022 congressional map there were 22 Democrat-majority and 4 Republican-majority districts.”
Thursday’s decision was a partial victory for Democrats. The court found the process lawmakers used to enact the maps was permissible. It also concluded that the 213 districts for state legislators were properly drawn.
“We are pleased the Court upheld the legislature’s process and the right for the legislature to enact these maps,” state Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy said in a statement. “The newly-drawn Senate and Assembly maps are now valid. We always knew this case would end at the Court of Appeals and look forward to being heard on our appeal to uphold the Congressional map as well.”
The decision was less sweeping than one issued by a lower-level court in late March. The Republican state judge in Steuben County there concluded that the Legislature never had the authority to draw the lines because the exact process prescribed by a 2014 constitutional amendment on redistricting was not followed.
Each of the judges at the appellate court in Rochester decided this was not an issue.
“We conclude that the New York State Constitution is silent as to the appropriate procedure to be utilized in the event that” the mapmaking commission fails to come up with all of its required draft plans, the majority opinion said. “We thus conclude that the legislation used to fill the gap in that procedure is not unconstitutional and that the redistricting maps enacted by the legislature pursuant to that legislation are not void.”
And since the lower court’s March decision to toss the state legislative lines was based on a Republican argument that the proper procedure was not followed, those lines can stand.
But the majority of the judges on the appellate panel agreed with Republican arguments that the Congressional lines run afoul of new language in the state constitution that prohibit maps designed to benefit a particular party.
Two of the five judges dissented with that conclusion, saying it was proper to question “the validity of the methodology” Republicans used to argue the lines were gerrymandered.
This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.