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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
/
WSKG
Judge Patrick McAllister hears arguments on New York's newly drawn congressional and state legislative districts at a hearing in Steuben County on March 3, 2022.

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.”

24_Redistricting Hearing_20220303_Golden.JPG
Vaughn Golden
/
WSKG
Former Congressman and Assembly Minority Leader John Faso , who is advising lawyers for Republicans who are challenging the district lines, speaks outside the courtroom.

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 public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.