Assembly map may be redone, but not in ’22 1

The statehouse in Albany.

A New York State appellate court ruled last Friday that the Assembly district lines the Legislature created in February were procedurally unconstitutional. The map will not, however, be redrawn for the 2022 election cycle, as the court determined that doing so before an August or September primary is “no longer feasible.”

This comes as the dust settles on the 2022 redistricting process, one that, following the failure of the state’s first Independent Redistricting Commission to agree on legislative lines, ultimately led to the redrawing of maps by a special master and the delaying of primary elections.

The petitioners — gubernatorial candidate Paul Nichols; Gary Greenberg, a former state Senate candidate; and Gavin Wax, president of the New York Young Republican Club — filed suit in New York County Supreme Court just weeks ago to throw out the Assembly maps, reschedule the primary and force candidates to petition once again, among other measures. Wax and Greenberg had previously made a similar effort as “putative intervenors” — people who have a legal interest in the case at hand — in Harkenrider v. Hochul, the case at the heart of the redistricting court battle this spring and prompted the congressional and state Senate maps’ redrawing. When Steuben County Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister shot down the effort, they, along with Nichols, brought the case to Justice Laurence Love in New York County, who sided with McAllister.

Because the initial suit included only the congressional and state Senate maps, the Court of Appeals did not throw out the Assembly maps, even though the justices agreed that, had they been included, they, too, would be procedurally flawed in that the Legislature did not have the authority to draw legislative lines should the IRC fail to do so.

But this case, unlike Harkenrider v. Hochul, does include the Assembly maps. Noting the Court of Appeals’ concern about the process by which the Assembly maps were drawn, the appellate court determined that new maps are warranted. And while Justices Barbara Kapnick, David Friedman, Peter Moulton, Martin Shulman and Bahaati Pitt agreed with the lower court that drawing new maps for the 2022 election cycle would be, as Love put it, “an impossibility,” the Appellate Division called for a remedy to be determined by the lower court. One option would be for a special master to be appointed once again.

Gov. Hochul could, however, appeal the decision, which would send the case to the Court of Appeals. Asked about that, the office of Attorney General Tish James referred the Chronicle to Hochul’s office. A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said last Friday it was “reviewing the decision.”

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