On Wednesday, New York‘s highest court found that the Democrats violated the State Constitution by drawing new congressional and State Senate districts themselves, and ordered that a court-appointed special master prepare replacement boundaries in time for this year’s crucial midterm elections.
A divided New York State Court of Appeals chastised Democrats for disobeying a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2014 to limit political influence in redistricting in a 32-page judgment. In addition, the amendment established a new outside panel to oversee the process.
The justices also determined that Democrats’ congressional districts were drawn in violation of a state law prohibiting partisan gerrymandering, undermining the party’s national campaign to position itself as a champion of voting rights.
Democrats Left Reeling
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, writing for the four-judge majority, said Democratic lawmakers designed congressional and State Senate maps in “procedurally unlawful” ways.
The verdict, which will not be appealed, was anticipated to push back the party primaries for Congress and the State Senate from June 28 to August, to give fresh maps time to be designed and candidates time to gather petitions to qualify for the ballot.
The decision was a crushing blow for Democrats in Albany and Washington, and it has thrown this year’s election campaign into disarray. Democrats had hoped that the More York congressional maps established in February would provide as many as three new seats in a year, counteracting Republican redistricting gains across the country. Republicans are on course to make moderate gains nationally, easing their path to recapturing control of both Houses of Representatives in the fall, with Democratic gains expected to be canceled or mitigated in New York.