Inaction by lawmakers has prompted a federal judge to recommend court intervention in New York’s redistricting process.
Judge Dora Irizarry said on February 13 that federal courts should be placed in charge of ensuring the state’s election process for Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts adheres to state and federal law, and suggested a special master be appointed to redraw district lines.
Irizarry, a judge in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, cited the “current state of inaction” in redrawing the lines and the upcoming Congressional primaries — slated to begin June 26 — as grounds for her reasoning.
Judge Gary Sharpe complicated matters on January 27 by ruling that primary elections for Congressional seats be moved up from September to June in order to allow military voters sufficient time to receive absentee ballots for the general election.
Irizarry also referenced instances of court interference which have expedited the process previously.
In her ruling, the judge noted, “In 1992 and 2002, the New York State Legislature acted only after there was judicial intervention.”
Irizarry’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed on November 17 by a group of six civic leaders, calling for a special master to be given authority over the mapping.
Daniel Burstein, who represents the plaintiffs along with Richard Mancino, believes the ruling is a “giant step forward in our efforts.”
“The ruling recognized that time has run out for the New York Legislature to draw district lines in time for the primary elections and period for petitioning, which begins in March,” Burstein said. “When the Legislature fails to act in a timely manner, then it is up to the courts to protect the voters of the state.”
Due to the decision, a three judge panel, composed of Irizarry and Judges Reena Raggi and Gerard Lynch, has been appointed by the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to make a final verdict. If a majority of the panel believes in the need for a special master, one will be appointed to draw the lines — after which the map will require approval from the court.
“Given Judge Irizarry’s recommendation, we do anticipate that a special master will be appointed,” said Burstein.
The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which drew up the current controversial lines, is holding public hearings across the state. Their maps, which would eliminate a number of incumbent senatorial Democrats, have been criticized by numerous politicians and good-government groups for being politically partisan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also intends to veto the lines, according to spokesperson Matt Wing.
“At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the governor.”