ALBANY — The upstate judge overseeing the redrawing of New York’s scrapped state Senate and congressional maps will weigh a legal challenge seeking to have Democrat-drafted Assembly district maps voided as well.
Steuben County State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister on Monday scheduled a hearing for May 10 to discuss a legal brief filed by the head of the New York Young Republican Club calling for the Assembly districts to be tossed.
“I will not stand for New Yorkers to suffer from the whims of an unconstitutional and undemocratic process,” NY Young Republican Club President Gavin Wax said. “The exclusion of State Assembly District maps from the special master’s redistricting efforts will subject New Yorkers to a decade of misrepresentation in state government.”
The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled last week that the Dem-led Legislature lacked the authority to draw up congressional and state Senate maps earlier this year after an independent redistricting commission failed to reach a consensus.
The initial Republican-backed lawsuit that led to that decision did not challenge the legality of the Assembly maps so they were not included in the panel’s ruling.
As a result, McAllister, who first ruled against the maps early last month, ordered primary elections for the congressional and state Senate races to be moved to Aug. 23 as an independent expert redraws the districts. The state’s remaining primaries, including Assembly and all statewide races, are still scheduled for June 28.
Wax’s legal filing calls for the Assembly primaries to also be moved to the August date.
The latest legal challenge throwing New York’s election calendar into chaos comes days after the Daily News first reported that upstate businessman and former Democratic state Senate candidate Gary Greenberg also plans to file a lawsuit challenging the validity of the Assembly maps.
Greenberg, a longtime advocate for laws supporting survivors of child sex abuse, told The News on Monday that he still plans to submit a suit this week.
“The Republican petition does not impact my plans,” he said. “We will be filing an extensive and comprehensive petition to the court.”
Greenberg’s lawsuit will also call for the petitioning process to be reopened for all races in the state since the collection of signatures was completed under the since-scrapped maps.
Special master Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, is now in the process of preparing new maps for New York’s state senate and congressional districts after being named special master by McAllister.
Interested parties can submit suggested district lines this week and Cervas is scheduled to appear in McAllister’s courtroom Friday to hear any final pleas.
Cervas has until May 20 to unveil his final maps, which will be used for the next decade.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Democrats in the Legislature gerrymandered the congressional maps in their favor and violated a 2014 constitutional change meant to take the politics out of the redistricting process.
In a footnote, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote that the panel could “not invalidate the assembly map despite its procedural infirmity” since the initial lawsuit that wound its way through the courts only challenged the Senate and congressional maps.
Cervas may have to add the Assembly to his to-do list should either of the new legal challenges succeed.
“The only reason that the State Assembly maps have not been struck down is because of a procedural technicality, which is hardly a justification for unconstitutional maps to stand,” said Aaron Foldenauer, an election lawyer representing Wax. “The only reason this motion is required is because the other petitioners in this redistricting litigation failed to seek adequate relief from the Court with respect to the State Assembly maps.”
A separate lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court late Monday by five voters against the state Board of Elections argued that the state violated a decade-old mandate requiring New York to hold its primaries in June.
The plaintiffs requested a three-judge court adopt a new congressional plan this week — in time for the BOE to certify the primary ballot, mail ballots by May 14, and hold the primary on June 28.
The suit describes McCallister’s intention to wait several weeks before drawing up a new plan as “untenable.”
McCallister’s plan “provides no meaningful opportunity to comment on the submitted maps without traveling to Bath, New York in person—a hardship for the vast majority of New York voters, and particularly for many minority voters who live a five-hour drive away, who do not own cars, and who are not able to take an entire day off work to participate in the hearing,” reads the lawsuit.
Former Republican congressman John Faso slammed the suit as “frivolous litigation” by state Democrats.
“This is the latest in a serious of desperate actions taken by Democrats seeking to preserve their unconstitutional gerrymander of congressional and legislative districts in New York State,” he said.