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Judge rejects New York's redistricting plans, calls them unconstitutional

Judge orders New York legislature to redraw state's congressional, legislative districts 01:40

NEW YORK — A judge has rejected New York's redistricting plans after finding them unconstitutional and gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. 

From the start, some protesters were not happy with the new lines for congressional, state senate and assembly districts.

Now, a state Supreme Court judge, Patrick McAllister, agrees. He ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by Republicans. The ruling strikes down the new lines because he says the "process used" by state Democrats "to enact the 2022 redistricting maps was unconstitutional."

"The judge didn't offer reasons beyond the allegation that the rationale for the redistricting plan was essentially partisan," David Birdsell, provost of Kean University, told CBS2's Dick Brennan. "He made the argument that the Democrats have done exactly what the Democrats are complaining about in many Republican-controlled states, where the Republicans have very clearly and admitted to creating maps that favor Republicans."

Some major congressional elections are affected, like Nicole Malliotakis' seat in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Birdsell says this ruling could mean some delay in the election process.

"One of the things that this does is freeze candidates because you don't know if you're running in the district that you'll ultimately be running in, in either the primary or the general election, so this puts a very, very  big monkey wrench in electoral machinery for both the primary and the general seasons," he said.

New York's Democrat-controlled legislature has been ordered to redraw them. New ones are due by April 11. 

If their new maps fail to pass muster in the courts again, then the judge said he would order the state to pay for a court-approved expert to redraw the maps.

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James say they will appeal. That could stay Thursday's decision and allow elections to go ahead along the new lines.

"This is one step in the process. We always knew this case would be decided by the appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will be stayed as the appeal process proceeds," said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the Senate majority.

"Albany Democrats ignored the will of New Yorkers who demanded fair, independent redistricting. Instead, they adopted partisan maps to protect themselves. Today a judge ruled their gerrymandered maps are UNCONSTITUTIONAL," Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said in a statement. "This is a victory for ALL  New Yorkers."

The state's primary elections are scheduled June 28 and candidates have already begun campaigning in the new districts.

The judge said that if the Legislature fails again and an outside expert is hired to draw the maps, the process would be expensive and lengthy and may leave the state without maps before Aug. 23, the last possible date that the state could push back its primary election.

Republicans had argued in a lawsuit that the maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats and marginalize GOP voters.

Legislative and congressional boundaries are being redrawn as part of the once-per-decade redistricting process kicked off by the 2020 Census.

The maps, drafted by lawmakers and approved by Hochul, ensured that Democrats made up a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the 26 congressional districts the state will have for a decade.

Republicans currently hold eight of New York's 27 seats in Congress.

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