New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has struck down supposedly non-partisan maps for Congress and the state Senate. The maps, which gave Democrats the edge in 22 of the state’s 26 Congressional districts, were declared unconstitutional in a ruling Wednesday. The decision came after a legal challenge from New York Republicans.
The issue before the Court of Appeals, which held a hearing on the matter Tuesday, was whether Democrats acted with partisan intent while violating the procedures established by New York laws designed to prevent such practices.
An “independent redistricting commission” produced the supposedly non-partisan maps that gave Democrats such a massive edge in New York.
Ultimately, a 4-3 decision was made after a string of lower court decisions that ordered the redrawing of congressional boundaries. The court also ruled that the proposed state senate lines were unconstitutional.
“We answer both questions in the affirmative and therefore declare the congressional and senate maps void. As a result, judicial oversight is required to facilitate the expeditious creation of constitutionally conforming maps for use in the 2022 election and to safeguard the constitutionally protected right of New Yorkers to a fair election,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a ruling released Wednesday afternoon.
GOP state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt praised the ruling in a statement. “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,” Ortt said Wednesday. “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.”
State Democrats had previously expressed optimism after the matter was kicked up to the Court of Appeals last week. After the latest ruling, a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats said they disagree with the court decision but will accept it.
While the Congressional maps were ruled unconstitutional, assembly maps that heavily favored New York Democrats were allowed to proceed by a lower court.
The latest ruling stated that “judicial oversight” will be needed to ensure new maps are in place in time for upcoming elections. It is possible that the state’s primary races, which are scheduled for June, could be pushed back to August.
“We are confident that, in consultation with the Board of Elections, [the state] Supreme Court can swiftly develop a schedule to facilitate an August primary election, allowing time for the adoption of new constitutional maps, the dissemination of correct information to voters, the completion of the petitioning process, and compliance with federal voting laws,” reads the ruling.