An appeals judge on Friday declined to slow the New York primary amid a battle for the state primarybut said he would allow a lower court judge to hire an expert to create alternative maps of the congressional district if the disputed ones are ultimately tossed.
The ruling by state Appellate Judge Stephen K. Lindley essentially transfers the decision on the constitutionality of the redistribution plan to a higher court, while also creating a possible contingency to keep the election on schedule. Lindley sits on the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals in Rochester.
The state election committee can continue to accept petitions submitted by candidates running for office in the new counties, Lindley’s decision said.
The busy season in New York may have been turned on its head last week when Judge Patrick McAllister, a Republican trial judge,that new political district maps, which Democrats strongly favor, were illegally created.
He ordered the legislature to redraw the county lines quickly, or he would hire a neutral expert to do it.
That sentence has been stayed pending the state’s appeal.
A Senate Court of Appeals has scheduled another hearing for April 20. The case could ultimately be decided by New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. The primary is scheduled for June 28th.
In his Friday decision, Lindley said he would allow McAllister to hire a neutral expert to create a new congressional map if he so desires, to be used if the Legislature’s maps are eventually struck down.
Lawmakers could also create an emergency card if they choose, Lindley said.
“The legislature can now start redrawing the map if they wish,” he said. “Or lawmakers can choose to do nothing and risk having to live with the map drawn by McAllister’s impartial experts if respondents lose on appeals court and don’t have enough time to propose a replacement map, subject to constitutional scrutiny after exhaustion.” the appeal stands cure.”
Former GOP US Rep. John Faso, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said they were pleased with the decision, which authorizes the Steuben County judge to appoint an expert, known as a court master, to set lines. “Ultimately, the Court of Appeal will decide, but we are very encouraged by today’s decision,” Faso said in an email.
If they survive court challenges, the cards will spell re-election trouble for several members of the Republican House of Representatives, while scrapping the cards could hamper House Democrats’ efforts to retain their majority.
The disputed lines would give Democrats a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the 26 US congressional districts that New York will have in 2023. Republicans, who now hold eight of the state’s 27 seats in the US Congress, would only have an advantage in the remaining four districts.
The state loses a congressional seat; New York was just 89 short of residents to hold all 27 boroughs.
Senate and Assembly attorneys Thursday assured Lindley that the cards would pass constitutional screening.
Legislative leaders have said they don’t plan to redraw the maps, defending them as reflecting population losses in former Republican bastions in the hinterland.
Lindley said Thursday he was primarily concerned about the prospect of voters being able to select candidates on the basis of unconstitutional maps, and said New York must be prepared for the possibility of congressional primary elections not being postponed until August 23 or 24 will.
The state judge also crossed out the maps of the Assembly and Senate for procedural reasons.
But Lindley didn’t allow Legislative Card backup plans in his Friday order. He said there was “less need” for a court master to create new legislative maps because the lower court did not find them unconstitutionally tampered with.
So far this election cycle, courts have stepped in to block maps they say have been tampered with by Republicans in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Democrats in Maryland.