Don’t get too used to your new state Assembly district. It won’t be around for very long.
A mid-level appeals court in Manhattan ruled Friday that the state Assembly’s districts are unconstitutional, since Democratic state lawmakers drew them by the same method that led the courts to toss New York’s congressional and state senate districts earlier this year.
But with the Assembly primaries just 18 days away, the five-judge Appellate Division panel allowed the districts to remain in place for this year. That means voters will elect representatives based on the map this year, but a new map will be in place before the 2024 elections, the next time candidates can seek to run for an Assembly seat.
The judges kicked the matter back to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love, who will be tasked with laying out a plan to redraw the districts for future elections.
“[The] redrawing and implementing of a new assembly map before a 2022 primary election delayed even until September is, at this late date, no longer feasible,” the judges wrote.
The ruling marked the latest episode in the ongoing debacle that is the state’s decennial redistricting process — a process that was supposed to be overseen by a bipartisan commission for the first time this year.
The hope for the commission was to ensure more independent redistricting. But when the panel deadlocked after the state Legislature rejected its first set of proposals, it set off a chain of events that have ended up bifurcating the primaries and potentially affecting the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.
After the commission deadlocked, legislative Democrats stepped in to redraw the lines themselves. State and congressional Republicans immediately sued and were successful: The state’s top court ruled the Legislature stepped in too soon and ruled the maps unconstitutional.
But the GOP only challenged the congressional and state Senate maps, so those were the only ones tossed and redrawn for 2022. As a result, the congressional and state Senate primaries were pushed to Aug. 23, while the Assembly and statewide primaries were kept at the previously scheduled date of June 28.
That prompted a group of plaintiffs, led by longshot Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Nichols, to sue in hopes of unifying the primaries and getting the Assembly districts thrown out, too. That was the matter of Friday’s order, though the judges declined to push back the Assembly primaries as requested.
Justices Barbara Kapnick, David Friedman, Peter Moulton, Martin Shulman and Bahaati Pitt concurred on the decision.
Either the Nichols plaintiffs or Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration could appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals, the state’s top court. But the court would have to agree to hear the appeal, since the mid-level ruling was unanimous.