ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s highest court has rejected new congressional district maps that had widely been seen as favoring Democrats.
In a 4-3 decision, state’s Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday with a group of Republican voters who say that the district boundaries had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and that the Legislature hadn’t followed proper procedure in passing the maps.
A lower-level court had also ruled that the maps were unconstitutional. It had given the Legislature an April 30 deadline to come up with new maps or else leave the task to a court-appointed expert. The Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision, requiring that the masks be created by a court-appointed expert.
"The Courts will be drawing the lines, which they actually did ten years ago for the congressional," Erie County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Ralph Mohr said.
Shawn Donahue, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo's Political Science Department, said this decision rested on expert witness testimony.
"He had drawn a number of random alternative maps that the maps that the Democrats drew were outliers in that most of the maps were not as favorable to the Democrats as the ones that were presented. In fact, I think almost none of them were," Donahue said.
The court says it will “likely be necessary” to move the congressional and state Senate primary elections from June to August.
"So as the state is carved up into 26 different districts, I'm sure it's going to effect both Congressman Higgins and Congressman Jacobs," Mohr said.
"What's going to have to happen is, when we get the new districts sometime in mid-May, or hopefully let's say, candidates will have to go back for the House and State Senate and you're going to have to have a petitioning period reopened so they can go and try go get on the ballots for different districts," Donahue said.
Donahue said the Court of Appeals decision will likely have national impact.
"This is a big blow for Democrats not just in the state, but this is a big blow for Democrats nationally," Donahue said, "If the house is very close in terms of the number of Democrats and the number of Republicans, it's possible that this decision may make the difference between Republicans controlling the house or not."