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New York court dismisses congressional cards drawn by Democrats

ALBANY, NY (AP) – New York’s Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected new congressional cards that had been widely seen as favoring Democrats, largely agreeing with Republican voters who claimed that the district boundaries were unconstitutionally manipulated.

The decision could delay New York’s primary election by as much as two months and is likely a blow to Democrats’ national redistribution hopes, which leaned heavily on their ability to give New York State to maximize the number of seats they could win in the US House of Representatives. .

The state appellate court said the democratically led legislature lacked the authority to redraw cards from Congress and the state Senate after an independent redistribution commission tasked with making new cards failed to reach agreement.

The judges also said lawmakers brought the congressional cards to the Democrats’ advantage, in violation of a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to eradicate political gambling in the redistribution.

The Court of Appeal delegated the authority to draw new district maps to an expert, known as a specialist court master, in lieu of the legislature.

“Rapid judicial intervention is both necessary and appropriate to guarantee the people’s right to a free and fair election,” said the court’s statement, written by Chief Justice Janet DiFiore.

The decision did not specify a deadline for the adoption of new cards. But the judges said they sent the case to a lower state court, which “must adopt constitutional cards with all necessary haste.”

It will “probably be necessary,” DiFiore wrote, to move the primary and state Senate primary elections from June 28 to August, to allow time for the cards to be redrawn, and for candidates and election officials to adjust their plans.

The state election board said it did not expect the primary date to change for other races, including governor and assembly.

The decision comes as a major blow to the Democrats in their fight to prevent Republicans from regaining control of the US House.

Due to new population data from the 2020 census, New York is set to lose a seat in Congress in 2021. The maps, drafted 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.

Democrats hoped a redistribution card favorable to their party in New York could help offset expected losses in other states where Republicans control the state’s government.

“While we are disappointed with the court’s ruling, we remain confident of democratic victories up and down the ballot in November,” said Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York Democratic Party.

Former New York Republican Representative John Faso called it a “concept of landmark decision” and told reporters in a call Wednesday night that the decision is a signal to future legislatures to follow the letter of the state’s voter-approved redistribution law.

“It will force cooperation between two parties, and that is what the people voted for,” he said.

During a process passed by voters in 2014, New York’s new district map should have been drawn by an independent commission. But the body, made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, could not agree on a set of cards. The Democratic-controlled Legislative Assembly then stepped in and created its own cards, which were quickly signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat.

The Court of Appeal, composed of judges appointed exclusively by Democratic governors, sided with the Republican plaintiffs, who argued that the Legislative Assembly circumvented the process outlined in the 2014 reforms, including a provision in the state constitution that prevents redistribution of districts for party political gain.

“The legislature responded by creating and introducing maps in an opaque way, controlled solely by the dominant political party – and did exactly what they would have done if the 2014 constitutional reforms had never been adopted,” DiFiore wrote.

Four out of seven judges in the Court of Appeal agreed with the majority opinion, one-fifth of which agreed that the Senate and Congress cards were unconstitutional for procedural reasons.

Lawyers for Democrats argued that the Legislature was allowed to make its own maps when the redistribution commission did not reach agreement. Democrats also said their maps reflected population shifts and united similar geographic and cultural communities, split apart by previous rounds of gerrymandering.

But the judges tasked the Democrats with making maps that reduced the number of competing districts and asking the court to essentially “repeal” the 2014 reforms.

In the majority opinion, DiFiore said that maintaining the tainted process would only encourage partisans involved in the process of independent redistribution commission to also avoid consensus in the future, “thereby allowing the legislature to step in and create new maps simply by creating a stalemate at any stage. of the IRC process. “

Two lower-level courts had also ruled that the cards were unconstitutional and gave the legislature a deadline of April 30 to draw new cards or otherwise leave the task to a court-appointed expert. That deadline has now been set aside.

Meanwhile, candidates have already started campaigning in the new districts, despite being unsure whether these districts will still exist when voting begins.

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Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi of Denver contributed to this report.

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