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New lawsuit seeks reinstatement of NY congressional maps

Map of proposed congressional districts released by a state panel Sunday Jan. 30, 2022.
New York State Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment
Map of proposed congressional districts released by a state panel Sunday Jan. 30, 2022.

A group of New York voters asked a federal court Monday to reinstate Congressional district maps tossed out by state judges last week because they were gerrymandered to favor Democrats.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, argued that even if those maps were unconstitutional, as state appeals judges found, it is too late to draft new ones.

The plaintiffs pointed to a federal court order from 10 years ago that set New York’s congressional primaries on the fourth Tuesday in June, in order to make sure military and overseas voters had ample time to receive and return mail ballots.

A state judge last week ordered the state’s congressional and state Senate primaries delayed until Aug. 23 in order for new maps to be drawn, from their previously scheduled date of June 28.

The suit said that kind of delay isn’t allowed under the 2012 court order. Therefore, it said, there’s no time for a new map-drawing process, which has been given over to a single researcher, and the court must reinstate original maps drawn by the state Legislature.

“New York’s decision to wait several more weeks before adopting a new congressional plan as its federally mandated June 28 primary rapidly approaches is untenable,” the lawsuit says. “The state has an obligation to redistrict in a timely manner. Since it has failed to do so, this court must act.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Democratic attorney Marc Elias, who has pursued lawsuits over redistricting maps in other states.

Former Congressman Jon Faso, who has been advising GOP voters in their lawsuits, called the filing the latest in a series of “desperate actions taken by Democrats seeking to preserve their unconstitutional gerrymander of congressional and legislative districts in New York State.”

New York’s Court of Appeals last week rejected the Congressional and state Senate district maps drawn by the Legislature, joining lower courts which found lawmakers had improperly sidestepped redistricting procedures enacted by voter referendum in 2014.

The ruling was a blow to Democrats’ hopes of seizing as many as three U.S. House seats from Republicans in the 2022 elections by redrawing district boundaries to dilute GOP votes.

Lawyers for the state’s Board of Elections had been reviewing whether the 2012 court order referenced in the lawsuit would necessitate approval by a federal judge of any shift in the primary date.

That order, written when state politicians couldn’t agree on when to hold the Congressional primary, didn’t rule out an August date as long as there was federal judicial approval.

“This decision by no means precludes New York from reconciling their differences and selecting a different date, so long as the new date fully complies” with federal voting law, the order reads. “The court fully recognizes that a permanent primary date is best left to New York, but has acted as it must to preserve federally protected voting rights.”

Multiple states hold their congressional primaries in August.