Another Judge, Another Stay- The Next Step in Congressional Redistricting
Last week, an acting NYS Supreme Court Justice in Steuben County ruled the newly drawn Congressional and Legislative districts in the state to be unconstitutional and must be redrawn immediately. As expected, the Democrats appealed Justice Patrick McCallister's ruling, and now a judge at the Appellate Court level has issued a stay which means, for now, the districts which currently favor Democrats, will remain in place.
State Appellate Division Associate Justice Stephen Lindley of Rochester put everything on hold and back in place on Monday. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, will hold a hearing on Thursday and is expected to render an opinion by the end of the day. It's expected that the case will then be fast-tracked to the NYS Court of Appeals, where a final decision from the state's highest court will be expected to come soon.
Why the hurry?
Justice McCallister's ruling that would send the whole redistricting process back to the drawing board to start over, poses serious problems. Among them is the fact that Congressional candidates have already begun to campaign in their new districts, and others have been collecting signatures to meet the April 7th deadline. Newly drawn districts, again, would send some candidates scurrying to potentially establish a campaign in another district which almost certainly would push the primary back into August. It would also mean that some candidates might have invested campaign dollars already in the district they thought they would be running in.
Examples of complications include NY-22 Representative Claudia Tenney who has decided to leave the Utica-New Hartford area to run in the Southern tier in the newly drawn NY-23, whereas it stands she would be heavily favored as a Trump-backed Republican. Meanwhile in the newly drawn 19th Congressional district which runs from Hudson up to New Hartford and Utica, Rep. Antonio Delgado and his Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro have already been campaigning here. So has Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who under the new map, would represent Herkimer County and Rome, along with Rome Labs and the Eastern Air Defense Sector at Griffiss.
State legislative district lines would also be affected.
If ultimately, the Court of Appeals rules with Justice McCallister's decision to deem the newly drawn lines unconstitutional, the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate would have to redraw the districts showing a level of bipartisanship that meets the approval of the courts, or the matter would be turned over to an independent expert who would redraw the lines for the legislature. Meanwhile, New York's primary process must be complete by August 23, in order to leave room for military ballots to be returned.