Wednesday’s court ruling striking down New York’s legislative maps took the process out of the hands of lawmakers and handed the job to a single, outside expert appointed by an upstate court.
And he must complete his work in a hurry.
Jonathan Cervas, a redistricting expert based at Carnegie Mellon University who is the court-appointed special master in the case, must produce final maps for Congress and the state Senate by May 20, according to a court order issued Thursday by Judge Patrick McAllister of upstate Steuben County.
The order gave all interested parties until May 5 to submit their own proposals for state Senate districts. A public hearing on both the Senate and Congressional maps will then be held May 6, with Cervas to complete all preliminary maps by May 16 and issue final maps by May 20.
An earlier set of maps drawn by state lawmakers was invalidated by the state Court of Appeals on Wednesday, a ruling that was disastrous for Democrats.
Democratic state lawmakers had drawn the maps for maximum advantage. Congressional maps in particular were drawn so favorably for Democrats, they expected to net three House seats in this year’s election, with Republicans potentially losing four.
Now lawmakers have been essentially cut out of the process going forward.
“The bottom line is that the Democrats in this state tried to cheat and rig the election,” Nick Langworthy, the state’s Republican Party chairman, said at a news conference Thursday. “And they got caught, and they got slapped down.”
Judge McAllister, who originally heard the lawsuit, appointed Cervas last week to draw new Congressional maps, in anticipation of Wednesday's outcome. The Court of Appeals' ruling also directed Cervas to draw new Senate maps.
New York Republicans have already submitted their own proposed Congressional maps to the court for consideration.
Former Congressman John Faso helped coordinate the Republicans’ legal effort.
“There is time,” Faso said, “for the special master to do his work.”
No matter what map Cervas draws up, it will undoubtedly be kinder to Republicans than the Democrats were.
“I think we have to give the benefit of the doubt that the judge wants the proper outcome,” Langworthy said, “and chose someone capable of delivering that.”