The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Judge won’t revive NY political maps that favored Democrats

- By Marina Villeneuve

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge refused Wednesday to order New York to hold its congressio­nal and state Senate primaries this spring using district maps declared unconstitu­tional by state judges, saying a legal effort by Democrats to revive the maps looked unlikely to succeed.

“Let’s be frank. This is a Hail Mary pass, the object of which is to take a long shot to have the primary conducted on state lines that the court says is unconstitu­tional,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said.

A group of voters filed a lawsuit asking fed

eral judges to intervene in New York’s redistrict­ing battle after the state’s highest court ruled that district maps crafted by the state Legislatur­e had been improperly gerrymande­red to favor Democrats. Those maps would have given Democrats a clear edge in 22 of the state’s 26 congressio­nal districts.

Replacemen­t maps are now being drawn by an independen­t scholar at Carnegie Mellon University under the supervisio­n of a state judge. The judge ordered the state’s primaries for Congress and state Senate moved from June to August so the redistrict­ing process would have enough time to play out.

A small group of voters, represente­d by Democratic attorney Marc Elias, asked the federal courts to block that plan, arguing that New York has to hold its primary in June because of a 2012 court order by another federal judge, Gary Sharpe, who is based in Albany.

The lawsuit said that if the state has to hold its primary in June, it is too late to draft new maps, even if the ones crafted by the Legislatur­e were unconstitu­tional.

Kaplan said forcing the state to use unconstitu­tional district maps simply to comply with an old court deadline that could easily be changed would trigger “chaos.”

“What are candidates supposed to do? What are voters supposed to do? What are all the people concerned with elections supposed to do? I would be hard pressed to imagine a scenario that would cast into greater disrepute the rationalit­y, the fairness, the consistenc­y of the holding of elections in this great country, than to precipitat­e that,” Kaplan said. “It’s decidedly against the public interest. And I’m simply rejecting the applicatio­ns.”

Kaplan said New York could easily ask for permission to delay primary from Judge Sharpe, who’s previously approved New York’s requests to tweak its political calendar. State Board of Elections attorney Brian Quail told Kaplan the board would do so by the end of the day Thursday.

Christina Ford, an attorney representi­ng the voters who filed the lawsuit, had argued New York lacks time to craft new maps and meet all voting rights deadlines by August.

New York’s gubernator­ial and state Assembly primaries are still set to take place June 28.

The state Legislatur­e also retooled Assembly district maps this year, through the same process that the court has ruled was unconstitu­tional, but Court of Appeals judges said they didn’t toss them out because a lawsuit filed by GOP voters didn’t specifical­ly challenge them.

On Wednesday, former Democratic candidate Gary Greenberg filed a lawsuit asking a state judge in Steuben County to toss and order new Assembly maps and delay Assembly races until August 23 as well.

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