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New York’s highest court sides with Democrats in redistricting fight

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(The Center Square) — New York’s highest court has ordered a state commission to redraw the state’s political maps, in a major victory for Democrats ahead of next year’s crucial election.

The New York Court of Appeals’ 4-3 ruling directs the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission to restart the redistricting process to set new political boundaries by a Feb. 28 deadline.

A majority of the justices agreed that the commission failed to meet its constitutional duty to redraw the political boundaries but argued that the panel should still be allowed to reconvene to fulfill its duty.

“The Constitution demands that process, not districts drawn by courts,” Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote for the court’s majority. “There is no reason the Constitution should be disregarded.”

The ruling is a major win for Democrats seeking to redraw the state’s maps after a chaotic redistricting process during the November 2022 midterm elections. While the bipartisan commission will develop the new political maps, the Democratic-controlled Legislature would still need to approve them.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, welcomed the court’s ruling in a joint statement, saying it “will ensure all New Yorkers are fairly and equitably represented by elected officials.”

A lawsuit filed last year on behalf of voters argued that the redistricting commission didn’t fulfill its mandatory redistricting responsibility when the panel deadlocked over drawing new political maps.

Republicans sought to keep the congressional maps intact, arguing that they are politically balanced and that the state shouldn’t be conducting another redistricting ahead of the next decennial census. In the 2022 midterms, the GOP flipped three seats in New York and won an open race crucial to the party regaining a narrow House majority.

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-NY, and New York GOP Chair Ed Cox blasted the court’s decision, saying it “opens the door for Democrats to rig our Congressional district lines so that elections are decided not by the voters, but by politicians in a back room.”

“In their relentless pursuit of power at all costs, corrupt Democrats in Albany and Washington have politicized the Court of Appeals,” they said in a joint statement. “Its once esteemed reputation is in tatters.”

“There’s nothing fair about this,” Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-NY, who represents one of the state’s contested House seats, posted on social media. “Dragging redistricting on for years will create more confusion and frustration for voters.”

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