ALBANY, NY (WIVB) – New York State primary elections are scheduled for June 28, but not all races will be on the ballot that day. Empire State voters may have to vote in two primary elections after the state appellate court ruled that the Democratic-signed redistribution card is unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Janet DiFiore ruled that the Independent Redistribution Committee, consisting of equal parts Republican and Democratic members, and the Legislative Assembly “failed to follow the procedure commanded by the state constitution.” This 4-3 decision by the state Supreme Court says congressional and state senate districts are unconstitutional, accusing Democrats of political gerrymandering. In 2014, the Constitution of New York State was amended to create a new redistribution process, which would be led by an independent group of voters.
This body was unable to agree on a card to be submitted for consideration, so the map drawing fell to the Democrat-controlled Legislative Assembly. After the Democrats proposed a card, Gov. Hochul it as law. The Republicans, who also made a card, then sued when they wanted the cards thrown away for violating a provision of the state constitution that prevented redrawing of districts for party gain. Similar legal battles have unfolded in several other states.
“This whole redistribution process has been to create a polite mess,” Professor Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at Maxwell School at Syracuse University, told News 4.
Now, a court-appointed, neutral redistribution expert, referred to as a “special master” in the court opinion, will draw a new, impartial map, which will be presented for comment.
“I do not know what that means. If it is not defined specifically and in detail, I could see it presenting lawsuits,” said Carl Calabrese, a political analyst.
It all happens almost two months before the planned midterm elections. Both voters and candidates do not know where the districts will fall. Due to the recent census, New York State will lose a congressional seat, and seats in the state Senate will also be moved to reflect where the population currently resides. Downstate is expected to get a state Senate seat from Upstate New York, according to experts News 4 spoke with.
“This statement is a big blow to the Democrats. Not just in New York, but nationally, because we’re getting a new card that’s probably pretty close to what we have now, minus the one seat that New York lost, Continued Shawn Donahue, professor at the University of Buffalo.
The court’s statement says that “it will probably be necessary” to move the primary elections of the Congress and the State Senate to a later date. Chief Judge DiFiore mentions a two-part primary election with these two races postponed to late summer or early fall. The rest of the ballot paper can be voted on during the ordinary primary election.
“Primaries for these two offices would practically be pushed to later in the summer or early fall,” added Ralph Mohr, Republican commissioner for Erie County’s election board. “It’s going to mean a lot of work for the election boards, and it’s going to be a little confusing for voters.”
The state election board issued a response to the court’s statement, saying they are ready to help.
The lawyers for the state election board are reviewing today’s decision from the Court of Appeal in Harkenrider against the Hochul case. State Department staff are ready to assist the Supreme Court in any way we are asked to quickly develop a new political calendar for a primary August for the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. We do not anticipate the primary change on June 28 for our nationwide offices, the state assembly, legal delegates and deputies, and any local offices scheduled to be on the primary ballot. Whatever adjustments are to be made in the process of accessing ballot papers for candidates for Congress and the State Senate for a new primary election, the court will be proposed. We will do everything in our power to inform voters to ensure a fair and accurate election for voters in New York.
New York State Electoral Board
For candidates, it can mean a complete change of campaign strategy, which can prove to be challenging late in the game.
“It’s a real curve for the political organizations and especially the candidates,” Calabrese said. “You may need to renew your entire campaign strategy based on what the new district is and what the new district’s priorities will be.”
After a year filled with political scandal, it is still unknown how this latest fight will affect voters.
“I always wonder what the turning point is for the public when it comes to its frustration with some aspects of the way Albany works,” Professor Reeher added.
At the national level, the redistribution process in New York may affect the midterm elections, as Democrats hope to retain their majority in the House of Representatives. It is unlikely that Congressman Brian Higgins’ district will be changed, according to Professor Donahue. He believes districts in central New York will be reorganized.
Tara Lynch is one Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She has previously worked at WETM in Elmira, NY, a sister station to News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.