BATH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A state supreme court judge in Steuben County has ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of newly elected voting maps. The redistricting maps were approved in February, but the state legislature is now ordered to draw new maps.
In his ruling, Judge Patrick McAllister said the maps were drawn with political bias and cannot be used for any upcoming elections, including the June primary. The lawsuit, filed by 14 Steuben County residents, claimed the new maps were “undeniably politically gerrymandered” after four republican seats were knocked out by the maps.
In 2014, voters approved a constitutional amendment to have New York’s election maps drawn by an independent redistricting commission. The commission was made up of five democrats and five republicans. It hit a stalemate in January and did not create a single set of maps.
The redistricting mission was then sent back to the state legislature with the democratic majority drawing maps that drew criticism from watchdog groups. Gov. Kathy Hochul approved the maps on February 3. The lawsuit was filed in Steuben County the same day.
George Winner is the attorney for the plaintiffs. He said the maps are illegal.
“The trial court determined that the proof met beyond a reasonable doubt that the Constitution was violated,” he said.
Democrats, however, said some in the GOP don’t feel that way.
“Matter of fact, I can tell you in the Assembly, republicans are just as happy with the maps as the democrats are,” Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes) said.
Judge McAllister is giving state lawmakers until April 11 to draw and pass a new set of maps. If they do not do so, the judge will hire what he called a “neutral expert” to draw them at the state’s expense.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Kathy Hochul issued a joint statement following the judge’s ruling:
“We intend to appeal this decision.”New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Kathy Hochul
Anticipating an appeal, the Board of Elections told NEWS10 they will receive election petitions next week and will proceed as if the primaries will still be held on June 28. If the ruling is upheld on appeal, it would push the primaries back to August, and the maps will look different, too.