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Judge orders New York congressional primary delayed until August

Democrats wanted to keep the primary in June but failed to convince federal courts.
The New York State Capitol stands on the northern end of the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
The New York State Capitol in Albany. David Boe / AP file

A federal judge Tuesday ordered New York to move its congressional primary to Aug. 23, rejecting an effort by Democrats to keep it in June.

A group of voters backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attempted to stop the state from pushing the date back by two months, arguing that a late August primary would reduce the turnaround time before the general election and risk disenfranchising New Yorkers casting ballots from abroad.

A federal judge last week denied the request, calling it a “Hail Mary pass” by Democrats. He then directed the state’s Board of Elections — which said it could comply with federal law regarding overseas voters if the primary were moved to August — to make its case to U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe, who first moved the primary to June a decade ago to accommodate voters living abroad.

Sharpe approved the Aug. 23 primary date Tuesday, saying he was “not persuaded” by the Democratic voters’ “speculative assertions that they will be disenfranchised by the delayed primary.”

“The later primary will accommodate the preparation of new Congressional maps and still provide ample time for compliance,” Sharpe wrote in his order.

Any last-ditch effort by Democrats to hold the primary next month, with their preferred map, would face a time crunch, because mail ballots would need to go out in mid-May for a late June primary.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some New York primaries — including those for governor and lieutenant governor — are still scheduled for June 28. It is unclear whether they will be moved to Aug. 23 or whether the state will incur the added cost of holding two primary elections this summer.

The back-and-forth over the primary date stems in large part from disputes over new maps establishing congressional and legislative districts, a process that takes place every 10 years.

New York’s highest court ruled April 27 that the state's congressional map and its state Senate map, as well as the process used to enact them, violated a new anti-gerrymandering amendment to the state constitution. A special master has been hired to redraw the maps by May 20.

Democrats had been expected to garner three additional seats in the House if their initial map were used, and many saw New York as critical to help Democrats compete with the GOP's nationwide redistricting advantages.

A more neutral map, however, is expected to create more competitive seats, with less-assured Democratic gains.

CORRECTION (May 10, 2022, 8:10 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misidentified the court that struck down New York’s new election maps last month. It was the state Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, not the Supreme Court, the state’s lower trial court.