A State Supreme Court judge in upstate Steuben County yesterday threw out New York’s new Congressional, State Senate and Assembly district maps, ruling that the process used to develop them violated the State Constitution.

In a sweeping 18-page decision, Judge Patrick McAllister held that the State Legislature had no legal authority to adopt new maps after the state’s Independent Redistricting Committee, created by a 2014 amendment to the State Constitution, failed to agree on new maps.

The IRC never even tried to come up with a compromise plan, the judge said.

“There is nothing in the constitution that permits the IRC to just throw up their collective hands,” McAllister wrote.

The court also ruled unconstitutional a 2021 law authorizing the legislature to draw its own maps, because voters in November 2021 had already rejected a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to do so.

“Just three (3) weeks later, the legislature enacted legislation signed by the governor giving themselves the power to do exactly what the people of the State of New York had just voted down three (3) weeks earlier,” the judge wrote.

The court ruled the new maps adopted by the Democratic-controlled State Legislature and signed into law in February by Gov. Kathy Hochul “void and unusable.”

Further, the court said it found “by clear evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias” in violation of the State Constitution.

The court found “credible evidence” — though not evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the legal standard of proof in these cases — that the State Senate map was also gerrymandered with political bias.

However, since the process used to draw the map was unconstitutional, the court ruled, both the State Senate and Assembly maps will also have to be redrawn.

“Therefore, that leaves no maps. At this point in time, the candidates have been collecting signatures for over a month to get on the ballot for districts that no longer exist,” the judge wrote.

Despite the extremely short timeline, which will likely require delaying the state’s June 28 primary election, the State Constitution requires the legislature “to be given another chance to pass maps that do not violate the Constitution,” McAllister wrote. Article III, Section 5 of the State Constitution specifically requires it, the court noted. That section states if a court finds a law establishing new maps violates the constitution “the legislature shall have a full and reasonable opportunity to correct the law’s legal infirmities.”

The court ruled that any revised maps drawn by the State Legislature must have bipartisan support in both the State Senate and Assembly.

“The maps do not have to be unanimously approved, but they must enjoy a reasonable amount of bipartisan support to insure the constitutional process is protected. This they will need to do quickly,” McAllister wrote.

The court set an April 11 deadline for the legislature to “enact new bipartisan-supported proposed maps that meet the constitutional requirements.” If the maps do not receive bipartisan support or if no revised maps are submitted, the court will retain an expert at the state’s expense to draw new maps, McAllister wrote.

That could mean New York would not have a Congressional map in place that meets the Constitutional requirements in time for the primaries — even with moving the primary date back to August 23, which is the last possible date a party primary can be held this year, in compliance with rules for mailing ballots out to members of the military serving overseas for both the primary and the November general election.

Hochul and State Attorney General Letitia James said in a joint statement last night they would appeal the decision.

The court also held that the maps enacted after the 2010 census are no longer valid due to unconstitutional malapportionment resulting from population shifts.

New maps are redrawn after every decennial census based on changes in population in the state. Districts are required to have roughly equal populations.

After the 2020 census, New York lost one seat in the House of Representatives, reducing its congressional delegation from 27 to 26 members.

The maps adopted by the Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by the governor Feb. 3 would alter the First Congressional District’s political leaning from a swing district that favored Republicans to one that has a solid Democratic majority. This is significant in an election year when the incumbent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, is not seeking re-election; Zeldin is the Republican Party designee for governor.

Redistricting will cause changes in the East End’s state representation too, but the newly adopted maps were not expected to change the political balance of power.

The new Assembly district map separates Riverhead from the rest of the five East End towns, with the First Assembly District gaining Southold Town in the South Fork-dominated District, while the Second Assembly District loses Southold and gains more territory in Brookhaven and the northwestern portion of Southampton Town.

On the other hand, the map for the First Senate District would not change much geographically, but could have political implications in a closely contested race for the seat.

Both the First Senate District and the Second Assembly District seats are held by Republicans, Sen. Anthony Palumbo o and Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, while the First Assembly District seat is held by Assemblyman Fred Thiele, a member of the Independence Party who caucuses with Democrats.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.