New York’s top court throws out district lines and delays primary

The court suggested the congressional and Senate primaries could be moved to August to allow new maps to be drawn. Until recent years, New York held its primaries in September.

“Although it will likely be necessary to move the congressional and senate primary elections to August, New York routinely held a bifurcated primary until recently, with some primaries occurring as late as September,” the majority opinion said.

“We are confident that, in consultation with the Board of Elections, Supreme Court can swiftly develop a schedule to facilitate an August primary election, allowing time for the adoption of new constitutional maps, the dissemination of correct information to voters.”

The court — where every judge was appointed by a Democratic governor — split 4–3.

The majority’s decision went further than even a decision from a Republican judge at a lower level in March, which left open the possibility of letting the Legislature draw new lines itself.

This is the first time that maps have been tossed in New York since the 1960s.

Democrats were miffed by the surprise decision after they appealed in the lower courts.

“We disagree with the Court of Appeals decision and believe in the constitutionality of the Congressional and state legislative maps passed earlier this year,” Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said in a statement.

“The State Senate maps in particular corrected an egregious partisan gerrymander and have not been overturned on the merits by any court. We will make our case to the special master appointed by the court.”

Republicans and some good government groups said the court’s decision was of Democrats own making for not trying to draw lines that were fair to all sides in a state with twice as many Democrats than Republicans.

More than seven years ago, voters in New York approved a process for redistricting that was aimed to remove politics from the process by having an independent panel draw the lines. But the state’s redistricting commission couldn’t agree on a set of lines earlier this year, leaving it to the Democratic-led Legislature to approve the new districts for New York’s 26 House seats and 213 state legislative seats.

“The State Legislature ignored the will of New Yorkers, who in 2014 voted to create an Independent Redistricting Commission and ban gerrymandering,” Betsy Gotbaum, the executive director of Citizens Union, a good-government group, said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the Legislature overstepped its authority, thus relinquishing its power over the redistricting process and handing it over to the courts.”

Republicans pointed to the decision as an example of Democrats’ control over state government. Democrats run the Legislature and the executive branch.

“This is a huge victory for free and fair elections in New York,” state GOP chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement. “This case rose to the highest level of the state’s court system and at every stage, even the partisan-appointed Democrat judges couldn’t swallow how filthy this gerrymander was.”

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