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NY’s highest state court tosses new district lines for Congress, State Senate over constitutionality

The New York Court of Appeals. (BigStock)
The New York Court of Appeals. (BigStock)

New York’s new district lines for Congress and State Senate, drawn by the state Legislature, were thrown out on Wednesday by the state’s highest court, which said in a decision that they were drawn “to discourage competition.”

Those maps will now be drawn by a special master appointed by a trial court judge, who first invalidated the new lines in late March.

The new maps, the court said, violated part of the state Constitution, enacted less than a decade ago, that expressly outlawed the practice of drawing new districts to favor a particular candidate or party — otherwise known as gerrymandering.

“The enactment of the congressional and senate maps by the legislature was procedurally unconstitutional, and the congressional map is also substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose,” the decision said.

It’s unclear what the decision will mean for this year’s political calendar. The window for candidates to petition to get on the ballot for this year’s primary has passed, and that election is scheduled for June 28.

In  its decision, the Court of Appeals suggested that the state’s primary election for seats in Congress and the State Senate be moved to August, given the new timeframe.

“We are confident that, in consultation with the Board of Elections, Supreme Court can swiftly develop a schedule to facilitate an August primary election,” the decision said.

The new lines were approved earlier this year by the state Legislature after an independent body tasked with creating the new districts failed to produce a new set of maps for lawmakers to consider.

In the Legislature’s view, that allowed them to draw the lines themselves, and approve them along largely partisan lines in both the Senate and Assembly. They were signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

A spokesman for Senate Democrats, who hold a strong majority in the chamber, said they’re reviewing the decision.

The decision is a win for Republicans, who’ve said the new maps, particularly those for seats in Congress, favored Democrats in this year’s elections.

“Despite Democrats’ attempts to inject partisan politics into this process, New Yorkers will now get what they voted for,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said. “We look forward to a special master producing fair, independent maps for the people of New York.”

The maps had previously been thrown out by a trial court judge in Steuben County. That decision was affirmed by an appellate court last week.