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

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Vaughn Golden
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Judge Patrick McAllister listens during a hearing.

On March 14, a state Supreme Court judge in Steuben County will hear arguments 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 the judge this week agreed that the case could go forward. But Judge Patrick 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.

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Former congressman and state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who served as an advisor to the republican’s lawyers, said the democrats who lead the legislature, and democratic Governor 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 said the lines were drawn fairly, and reverse decades of what they said was republican gerrymandering.

The judge did present the possibility that, if the Republicans successfully argue their case, then 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 that 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. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.