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Challenge to NY's congressional & state redistricting lines continues in court March 14

Judge Patrick McAllister, wearing a black face masks and black robe, sits in front of an American flag and wall calendar, with a computer monitor in front of him.
Vaughn Golden
Judge Patrick McAllister rejected motions to dismiss the challenge to New York’s congressional maps.

A state Supreme Court judge in Steuben County will hear arguments March 14 on whether to throw out the state’s newly drawn congressional and state legislative districts.

Republicans, who are challenging the lines, won a small victory when Judge Patrick McAllister this week agreed that the case could go forward. But McAllister refused the GOP’s request to postpone the June primary elections, saying it’s too late now to do so. Petitioning to obtain spots on the ballot has already begun.

Former congressman and state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who is serving as an adviser to the Republicans' lawyers, said the Democrats who lead the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul manipulated the lines to try to drive them out of office.

“This is a partisan gerrymander, every third party independent of the political process in New York state says this is a partisan gerrymander,” Faso said. “And we think ultimately the courts will throw these plans out.”

Faso said the new lines violate a constitutional amendment approved by voters eight years ago that prohibits drawing district lines to benefit incumbents or discourage challengers.

“It’s clearly contrary to what the people voted for in 2014,” Faso said.

Democrats deny they engaged in partisan manipulation, and say the lines were drawn fairly and reverse decades of what they say was Republican gerrymandering.

The judge did present the possibility that if the Republicans successfully argue their case, new congressional and state legislative lines could be drawn in time to hold a special election for all of the seats in 2023. That would mean candidates -- and voters -- would have to go through the election process for three years in a row: this year, next year and in 2024.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.