WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a state trial court judge permanently blocked New York’s newly-enacted congressional and legislative maps. A group of Republican voters had filed a lawsuit against the state’s new districts earlier this year, arguing that the new congressional map and state Senate maps are invalid for two reasons: first, that the citizen-led Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) and New York Legislature did not follow the state constitution’s redistricting process and second, that the maps are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that favor Democrats in violation of the New York Constitution. In the order today, the judge agreed with the petitioners that, procedurally, the Legislature violated the 2014 constitutional amendment by bypassing the IRC’s authority. Even though this lawsuit only challenged the congressional and state Senate maps, the judge determined that new Assembly districts similarly violate the state constitution because the “same faulty process was used for all three maps.” Even though the maps were found to be unconstitutional due to this procedural violation, the judge still addressed the plaintiffs’ second claim and held that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias. The judge gave the Legislature until April 11 to draw new maps that receive a “reasonable amount of bipartisan support.”
In January, the New York Legislature rejected the first series of redistricting maps sent to them by the Commission. According to the state’s constitutional amendment outlining the redistricting process, the Commission then had 15 days to submit new maps for consideration by the Legislature. In the order, the judge laments the fact that the Commission gave up well before its 15-day deadline, and instead the Legislature stepped in to draw significantly different plans in violation of the constitutional redistricting requirements. “The Legislature is not free to ignore the IRC maps and develop their own,” wrote the judge, also finding a law passed in November 2021 that alters the redistricting process unconstitutional.
Under New York law, if the state appeals, this decision will be paused while the appeal is pending.