CASE SUMMARY

On February 3, 2022, a group of New York voters filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court against New York's Governor, Lt. Governor, legislative leaders, State Board of Elections, and the Legislative Task Force on Demographic and Reapportionment, challenging both the state's previous and enacted congressional redistricting plans as violating the New York Constitution. First, plaintiffs assert the state legislature lacked the authority to enact the new congressional plan under N.Y. Const. art. III, Section 4(b) and N.Y. Legis. Law Section 93(1) because they failed to receive or consider a second set of map proposals from the state's redistricting commission, a step mandated by the state constitution's redistricting procedures. Next, they allege that the state's congressional map from the previous cycle has now become unconstitutionally malapportioned in violation of the population equality requirements under N.Y. Const. art. III, Section 4(c)(2) and N.Y. Legis. Law Section 93(2)(b). Third, plaintiffs allege that the enacted congressional plan is a partisan gerrymander designed to disproportionately favor Democrats and disfavor Republicans in violation of the partisan favoritism provisions in N.Y. Const. art. 4(c)(5) and N.Y. Legis. Law Section 93(2)(e). They are seeking a declaratory judgment that both congressional redistricting plans are unconstitutional and unlawful, an injunction barring the defendants from using either map in future elections, and for the Court to either adopt a new, lawful plan or order the state legislature to remedy the constitutional defects in the enacted plan.

On March 31, 2022 the court issued its decision striking down the state's congressional, state Senate, and state House plans as unconstitutional. The court found all three maps were void in their entirety because the legislature lacked the constitutional authority to draw and enact them as they never received and considered a second round of bipartisan map proposals from the state's redistricting commission, as mandated by the New York Constitution. The court explained the legislature's and Governor's passage of a law purporting to give them authority to draw and pass their own maps in the event the commission failed to submit proposals to them could not override the redistricting procedures and anti-gerrymandering provisions laid out in the New York Constitution, including a limitation that the legislature's revisions to maps could not alter more than 2% of the population of any district in the commission's original plan(s). Additionally, the court held the congressional plan was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias in favor of Democrats in violation of article III, Section 4(c)(5) but ruled the petitioners had failed to establish the state Senate plan also was drawn with unconstitutional political bias. Having declared all three maps unconstitutional, the court ordered the legislature to enact new redistricting plans with bipartisan support in both chambers by April 11, 2022 that comply with all constitutional requirements, which the court will then review. If they fail to do so, the court stated it would retain an expert to draw and impose new plans of its own. The defendants appealed this decision to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Department the same day.

On April 4, the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division issued an order temporarily staying the lower court's decision until April 7 pending the parties' arguments as to why a complete stay should or should not be issued while the case proceeds through the appellate process. On April 8, the Appellate Division issued a decision partially granting the defendants' application for a stay on the lower court's ruling while the appeal is pending. The stay, which will last until the Appellate Division renders its decision, permits the state to proceed with preparations for the 2022 elections using the enacted plans, but does not bar the lower court judge from retaining a "neutral expert" to prepare a proposed congressional map while the appeal proceeds.

On April 21, the Appellate Division issued its ruling affirming the lower court's invalidation of the congressional plan as being drawn with an unconstitutional partisan bias but reversing as to the invalidation of all three plans as being enacted via an unconstitutional process. The court ordered the legislature to enact a constitutional replacement congressional plan by April 30, 2022. The defendants appealed this decision to the New York Court of Appeals the following day. Oral arguments were held before the Court of Appeals on April 26.

On April 27, the Court of Appeals held that both the congressional and state Senate redistricting plans were enacted in violation of the state's constitutional redistricting process and the congressional plan was drawn with unconstitutional partisan intent and declared both maps void. The Court's majority opinion explained the text and purpose of the New York Constitution's redistricting reform amendments clearly intended for compliance with the Independent Redistricting Commission process to be a constitutionally required precondition to the legislature's enactment of redistricting legislation, and here the legislature bypassed that process to enact entirely new plans which did not originate with the commission. Additionally, the Court affirmed the lower courts' finding of unconstitutional partisan intent underlying the congressional plan's creation as sufficiently supported by the facts and evidence in the record, specifically noting the finding that it was drawn to discourage competition. Having struck down both maps, the Court remitted the matter back to the Supreme Court with instructions to adopt constitutional maps "with all due haste" with the assistance of the special master and any other relevant submissions.

The special master submitted his final congressional and state Senate redistricting plans and report to the court on May 21 and the court issued an order adopting them as final the same day.

CASE LIBRARY

Supreme Court of New York, Steuben County - No. E2022-0116CV

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department - No. CAE 22-00506

New York Court of Appeals - No. APL-2022-00042