The New York State Court of Appeals in Albany.

The New York State Court of Appeals today struck down redistricting maps passed by the state legislature’s Democratic majority and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul that would have given Democrats a strong chance to flip New York State’s first congressional district blue in this November’s election. 

The highest court in the state ruled 4-3 against the maps, and in favor of petitioners challenging their constitutionality. In a 32-page opinion signed on Wednesday, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore ruled the new state senate and congressional maps violated the procedure outlined in the 2014 constitutional amendment on redistricting, which requires that maps be drawn by a bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission.

“A stalemate within the IRC resulted in a breakdown in the mandatory process for submission of electoral maps to the legislature,” DiFiore wrote. “The legislature responded by creating and enacting maps in a nontransparent manner controlled exclusively by the dominant political party — doing exactly what they would have done had the 2014 constitutional reforms never been passed.”

The court also ruled the congressional maps were drawn with “an unconstitutional partisan intent,” also in violation of the amendment, which was created to discourage partisan and racial gerrymandering. 

A state trial court, with the assistance of an appointed neutral redistricting expert and a special master, will adopt maps for the upcoming elections. The congressional and state senate primary elections will likely be moved to August because of the new maps, the decision reads. 

New maps are drawn every 10 years as districts are reapportioned, a political process that takes place after the decennial census to redraw election districts based on population changes. Battles over reapportionment can often result in gerrymandering, where the party in power uses the opportunity to redraw boundaries to tighten their control on state and federal elections.

Seven seats are being shuffled in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, with Republican-leaning states, including Texas and Florida, gaining three seats. Democratic-controlled states conted a net loss of two seats, including one in New York, which saw a disproportionate population growth over the last 10 years. There was a net loss of one seat in swing states. 

The maps, now void, would have given Democrats the advantage on paper to win three seats, including the first congressional district on the East End of Long Island, which would have been redrawn to extend further west and into the easternmost part of Nassau County.

See prior coverage: A redrawn NY-01 would have solid Democratic majority under new map before state lawmakers

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the Republican’s presumptive nominee for governor, applauded the decision on Twitter after it was announced. “NY’s Court of Appeals just tossed the hyper-partisan, gerrymandered Congressional and State Senate maps for the state. This is excellent news for the people of New York and yet another big time defeat for Kathy Hochul and her Dem allies,” he wrote.

Hochul has not yet made a public statement on the decision.

DiFiore’s decision won’t be the last made to determine the fate of redistricting in the fight to control the U.S. House of Representatives next year. Other states like Florida, which has drawn similar advantages for Republicans, also have lawsuits pending on their reapportionment maps.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com