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New York judge strikes down state's new redistricting maps in loss for Democrats

The maps, drawn by Democrats, would have given the party a heavy political advantage over Republicans. Lawmakers have until April 11 to submit new maps.
Voters cast their early ballots for the 2020 Presidential election at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 30, 2020, in New York.
Voters cast early ballots in the presidential election at Madison Square Garden in New York on Oct. 30, 2020.Kena Betancur / AFP via Getty Images file

A state judge on Thursday struck New York’s new maps for congressional, state Senate and Assembly seats, calling them an example of unconstitutional “gerrymandering.”

Judge Patrick F. McAllister, an acting state Supreme Court justice in Steuben County, in central New York, ordered the Legislature to draw new maps — "that receive sufficient bipartisan support" — by April 11. New York is holding primary elections June 28.

He wrote in his ruling that the “process used” by state Democrats “to enact the 2022 redistricting maps was unconstitutional.”

Specifically, McAllister wrote that state Democrats ignored provisions of a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to prevent drawing partisan districts that govern the way the Legislature must consider maps drawn by a bipartisan commission.

If lawmakers fail to meet the April 11 deadline, “the court will retain a neutral expert at State expense to prepare said maps,” McAllister wrote. He added that legislators could move the state's primaries to as late as Aug. 23 if it were to become necessary to delay them if maps weren't agreed upon quickly.

That idea represents a reversal from one he'd made earlier this month, in which he'd written that there wasn't enough time before the next elections to draw new maps.

Mike Murphy, the communications director for state Senate Democrats, tweeted Thursday that state Democrats would appeal the decision.

"This is one step in the process. We always knew this case would be decided by the appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will be stayed as the appeal process proceeds," he tweeted.

The latest ruling, which eliminates the advantage Democrats had accrued nationally with newly drawn congressional maps in various states, is the second in as many weeks to block a map that a court deemed to have been gerrymandered to benefit Democrats.

The new maps, approved by the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed off on by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last month, had been drawn in such a way that Democrats would have been the majority of registered voters in 22 of the 26 congressional districts New York will be divided into next year.

The maps would have cut the number of Republican-leaning districts in half and given Democrats a heavy political advantage

That had been criticized by some nonpartisan groups. A group of Republican voters challenged the maps in court, saying they violated the state’s constitution.

Their suit claimed the new districts violated a 2014 constitutional amendment that was designed to prevent partisan district drawing. State Democratic leaders who drew the new maps had said they reflected the state’s population shifts over the last decade.

Before last week, courts had intervened to block only maps they found to be GOP gerrymanders, among them those in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

On Monday, a Maryland judge ruled that the state’s new congressional map was unconstitutional, making it the first Democratic-drawn map to have been struck down by a court this redistricting cycle. New York's is now the second.