A state appellate court should reject the legislative maps drawn by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, the League of Women Voters of New York in a legal brief filed this week said.
The good-government and civic organization's call for the rejection of the maps for new district boundaries for Congress and the state Legislature comes as a Republican-aligned lawsuit has challenged how the lines were drawn.
Critics of the maps have charged the lines could further fuel partisanship in Congress at the national level ahead of what's expected to be a contentious election year.
“This case raises a question of monumental importance, whether the courts will enforce the procedural requirements adopted by the People in the New York Constitution to prevent partisan gerrymandering and sharply curtail the Legislature’s power over redistricting," said League of Women Voters Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman. "Here, that constitutionally mandated process was indisputably violated by a combination of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s failure to live up to its constitutional responsibilities and the Legislature’s brazen disregard of the required process.”
Republicans as well as redistricting reform advocates have called the lines an example of gerrymandering, in which those in power draws boundaries in order to favor one party or incumbent. Democratic lawmakers have said they expect the lines will be upheld, and were drawn fairly to reflect a heavily Democratic state.
But along with GOP challenges to the lines, some advocates have taken issue with how the lines were drawn to potentially aid Democrats after an appointed commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of legislative maps.
An amendment to the state constitution, approved by voters in 2014, set the new redistricting process in place that largely empowered the appointed commission to draw the lines. But if they failed, the process was turned back to the Legislature.
“Our brief calls on the Court to invalidate the maps drawn by the Legislature in violation of the constitutionally mandated process," Bierman said. "Under the clear language of the Constitution, new maps must now be drawn by the Court, not by the Legislature, to provide the critical protection against partisan gerrymandering that voters understood in approving the amendment.”