New York’s highest court on Wednesday rejected the state’s new congressional district maps.
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 a deadline of April 30th to come up with new maps or else leave the task to a court-appointed expert, known as a special court master, instead of the Legislature.
“Prompt judicial intervention is both necessary and appropriate to guarantee the People’s right to a free and fair election,” said the court’s opinion, written by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.
The ruling didn’t specify a deadline for the adoption of new maps. But the judges said they were sending the matter to a lower state court, which “shall adopt constitutional maps with all due haste.”
It will “likely be necessary,” DiFiore wrote, to move the congressional and state Senate primary elections from June 28th to August, to give time for the maps to be redrawn and for candidates and elections officials to adapt their plans.
The state elections board said it didn’t anticipate that the primary date would change for other races, including governor and assembly.
In light of new population data from the 2020 census, New York is set to lose one seat in Congress in 2021. The maps devised by the Legislature would have given 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.
“While we are disappointed with the Court’s ruling, we remain confident in Democratic victories up and down the ballot this November,” said Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party.
Former New York Republican Rep. John Faso called it a “landmark decision” and told reporters on a call Wednesday evening that the ruling is a signal to future legislatures to follow the letter of the state’s voter-approved redistricting law. “It’ll force bipartisan cooperation and that’s what the people voted for,” he said.
At this stage, candidates have had to commence with their campaign in the new districts, despite not knowing whether those districts will still exist by the time voting begins.
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