Expedited Appeal Nearly Certain After Judge Calls NY Redistricting Unconstitutional
A judge in Steuben County ruled on Thursday that New York's new congressional districts were gerrymandered to benefit Democrats and are unconstitutional. Acting Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister said that the districts, including the legislative districts, must be redrawn to show at least some bipartisanship.
Democrats in New York's legislature have a super majority and according to the judge, strategically drew the congressional maps to take seats away from Republicans. Now, he's giving them until April 11 to try to come up with a new map that will meet constitutional guidelines, or he'll order the state to pay for a court-approved expert to redraw the maps for them.
But wait, don't make any moves yet...
Democrats say they will appeal. This means the case will immediately be elevated to New York's Court of Appeals, the state's highest court and it's expected to be expedited in order to render a quick decision. Meanwhile, there are cases from Ohio and Alabama at the U.S. Supreme Court level, and those cases could supersede decisions made at the state level. Also, a decision from the country's highest court might not come until fall.
The ruling comes just as candidates are collecting signatures for their new districts. New York's primaries have been scheduled for June 28, and candidates have also already begun campaigning in their new districts.
Complicating matters further, the decision to send the task back to Albany also comes just as state legislators announced today that budget talks have stalled, and they won't meet the April 1st deadline to adopt a budget. This means budget negotiations are likely to continue into next week.
"Everything is up in the air both politically and governmentally," said State Senator Joe Griffo. "Meanwhile, the budget will be past due and nobody really truly knows exactly where they're going to be running in the upcoming election," he said.
State Conservative party Chairman Gerard Kassar was quick to applaud the decision. "Now the Democrats must go back to the drawing board and have new lines ready in less than two weeks. We applaud the court’s decision, and urge them to keep an eye on every pencil line the Democrats draw over the next 11 days."
The newly drawn maps have been called "devastating" by public officials in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties. The new congressional map splits Utica apart from Rome, and Herkimer County, and splits Madison County up, as well. State Senate and Assembly maps are also split up within county lines.
Today's decision leaves candidates in limbo more than a month after many of them were forced to scramble their plans for the upcoming election.