Within hours after the state Legislature approved new redistricting maps for the Assembly, Senate and Congress in January, the election process was thrown into chaos with the filing of a Republican-backed lawsuit claiming the maps were unfairly drawn in Democrats’ favor. Since then, the lawsuit, along with subsequent legal actions involving courts from the local to federal levels, have upended the primary schedule and jeopardized candidates’ campaigns.
Keep track of the fiasco below:
Independent Redistricting Commission fails to come to an agreement: In January, the 10-member redistricting commission, composed of five Democrats and five Republicans, announced they could not reach a consensus on new lines for the House of Representatives, along with the Assembly and state Senate. The commission’s failure put the fate of the decennial redistricting process in the hands of the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Legislature proposes new congressional map: Days later, the Legislature revealed plans that would leave Republicans with just four out of 26 congressional seats. Parts of liberal Park Slope and Sunset Park were added to the district represented by Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, for example.
Republican rage: “These maps are the most brazen and outrageous attempt at rigging the election to keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker,” state GOP Chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement posted to Twitter. State Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, who led the redistricting efforts, in turn, defended the maps, saying “we’re very confident this adheres to the current requirements.”
Senate and Assembly maps introduced: These lines, which debuted in February, would also help Democrats retain their 44-seat supermajority in the state Senate and strengthen their ability to keep at least 100 of the 150 seats in the lower chamber.
Legislature approves congressional maps: In a 43-20 vote in the state Senate and 103-45 vote in the Assembly, lawmakers passed legislation to solidify the proposed lines on Feb. 2. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed them into law the following day.
State Senate, Assembly maps approved: A day later, the lines for the state Senate and
Assembly were approved 118-29 in the lower chamber and 43-20 in the Senate.
Lawsuit filed against congressional, Senate maps: The day after the legislative lines were approved, a group of GOP-backed voters filed a lawsuit in Steuben County claiming the congressional map “is an obviously unconstitutional partisan and incumbent-protection gerrymander.”
Judge invalidates all three maps: Steuben County Judge Patrick McAllister on March 31 declared the state Senate, Assembly and congressional maps to be “void and not usable,” and ordered the Legislature to retool them before an April 11 deadline.
Democrats appeal ruling: Lawyers for Hochul and Democratic leaders immediately appealed McAllister’s decision. Days later, Appellate Justice Stephen Lindley issued a stay in the proceedings that allowed petitioning to proceed as if nothing had happened.
Appellate court agrees with McAllister: In a 3-2 decision issued April 21, the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Rochester determined the congressional map was “drawn to discourage competition and favor Democrats,” the Times-Union reported. The decision moved the case to the state Court of Appeals .
Court of Appeals tosses congressional, state Senate maps: In a landmark 4-3 decision, the state’s high court ruled on April 27 that both maps were drawn in violation of the constitution and the congressional map was gerrymandered. The court did not address the Assembly map, however.
Special master appointed: When the Court of Appeals invalidated the maps, it directed McAllister to oversee the redrawing, and he assigned a neutral expert to craft the new congressional and state Senate lines. Jonathan Cervas, who holds a PhD in political science and has been involved in redistricting processes across the country, has a May 20 deadline to submit the new maps ahead of a new Aug. 23 primary date.
Dems file federal lawsuit to uphold congressional lines: National Democrats filed legal action earlier this month in federal court seeking to maintain the congressional maps and June primary election date. A judge in the case mocked the lawsuit as a “Hail Mary pass.”
Legal action filed against Assembly maps: Gavin Wax, president of the New York Young Republican Club, and gadfly Gary Greenberg filed additional legal actions in the Steuben County case seeking to have the Assembly maps redrawn as well.
Federal court solidifies Aug. 23 primaries: Last week, US District Court Judge Gary Sharpe rejected the Democrats’ attempt to keep the congressional lines, affirming the Aug. 23 primary date for the state Senate and congressional elections.
McAllister rejects legal actions against state Assembly maps: Also last week, McAllister dismissed the legal actions filed by Greenberg and Wax, and said the Assembly primary election process could continue ahead of the originally scheduled June primary date. McAllister agreed with Greenberg and Wax that the Assembly maps were effectively unconstitutional, but said there was not enough time to reschedule the primary.