First came the vote. Then came the lawsuit.

Republicans wasted no time filing a legal challenge Thursday to New York’s new congressional seats, which the state Legislature’s Democratic majorities approved on Wednesday after drawing them in a manner that gave the party an edge in 22 of 26 districts.

The legal challenge marks the state Republican Party’s official attempt to beat back the Democrat-drawn lines, according to party spokesperson Jessica Proud. It was crafted with support from the National Republican Redistricting Trust, a national group created to help fund the GOP’s legal battles over line-drawing.

And it is expected to set an important precedent, potentially for decades to come.

The suit relies heavily on changes to the state constitution that just went into effect for this redistricting cycle, which for the first time included a clause meant to specifically bar the type of partisan gerrymandering that had been used by both parties in New York for generations.

“This is going to be an interesting, groundbreaking suit,” said Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, a think tank focusing on redistricting and voting reform. “The provisions that Republicans are suing under were new to the New York constitution. They were added in 2014 by voters and they are so far untested.”

The lawsuit is expected to soon be updated to include challenges to new state Senate and Assembly district lines, as well. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed all the district lines into law late Thursday.

Democrats say they are confident all of the lines will be upheld in court.

“We are 100% confident that the lines are in compliance with all legal requirements,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for state Senate Democrats.

Was the correct process followed?

The GOP’s lawsuit was filed late Thursday in state Supreme Court in Steuben County, a county that one of the suit’s lead attorneys – George Winner – once represented in the state Senate.

It makes two main arguments.

The first is that the Democrats who control the state Legislature didn’t follow the correct redistricting process as laid out in the 2014 changes to the state constitution.

That year, voters approved a new “independent” redistricting process that was supposed to allow a bipartisan panel to come up with proposed maps for the legislature to consider. This year marked the first cycle that panel, known as the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), was put into place.

But the commission deadlocked, unable to agree on a single set of maps. Instead, the Democratic members submitted one set to state lawmakers and Republicans sent another; both were rejected.

From there, the IRC was supposed to send a second, revised proposal to the legislature for consideration. But they never did – failing to come up with a set of revisions amid public finger pointing by the two parties’ representatives.

That cleared the way for the legislature’s Democratic majorities to draw the maps themselves.

But the Republican lawsuit claims the state constitution required the Legislature to vote down a second, revised set of proposals before being able to make their own changes. And that never happened because the IRC never sent them over.

“The Democratic Caucus of the IRC decided not to submit a compromise congressional map within the constitutional timeframes after receiving encouragement to undermine the constitutional process from Democratic Party politicians and officials,” the lawsuit claims.

GOP makes gerrymandering claim

The GOP’s second main argument is based on a claim of gerrymandering – district maps drawn in a way meant to benefit a particular person or party.

The 2014 constitutional amendments laid out a series of requirements for the IRC, including that they draw districts that are contiguous and are “compact as possible.”

But they also included a clause meant to tackle the concept of gerrymandering, which – prior to that – had not explicitly been excluded in the constitution.

“Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties,” the constitution now reads.

The GOP lawsuit goes over each congressional district, laying out more than a dozen examples of ways the party claims the Democrats drew maps that were designed to prop themselves up.

They point to the 3rd Congressional District, where parts of Long Island were combined with Democrat-leaning areas of Westchester County to form a Democrat-leaning district. They cite the 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York, where Republicans claim GOP areas were all packed together to make other nearby districts more Democratic.

The lawsuit asks Steuben County Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister to toss the maps and have new ones drawn. That’s similar to what happened in 2012, when the Republicans who controlled the Senate at the time and the Democrats who controlled the Assembly couldn’t reach an agreement and a court appointed a special master to draw lines.

Will the maps hold up?

But Democrats are confident that won’t be the case this time around.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Democrat representing Queens, said he and his party followed the rules when drawing the maps. He’s pushed back against any suggestion of gerrymandering, suggesting that the party is simply making corrections to maps that had been gerrymandered by Republicans in the past.

“We have a long list of standards that we’re required to comply with,” Gianaris said Tuesday. “Our lawyers were involved as these maps were being drawn every step of the way. And we believe with confidence that we have complied with all the requirements of New York law, including those that require us not to draw the maps for the benefit or detriment of specific individuals or political parties.”

Whether the new district lines comply with the state constitution will ultimately be up to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

And the clock is ticking: Ballot petitioning for the June 28th primary is scheduled to begin March 1st. And mail-in ballots listing the names of candidates have to be finalized by mid-April.

Li, the senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said the time crunch could leave the courts some options.

The courts could decide to send the maps back to the legislature and have them try again. They could decide to throw the maps out and opt for court-drawn maps. Or they could decide there’s not enough time to act before the primaries and leave the Democrat-drawn maps in place for this year, while reserving judgment for future elections.

“Historically, courts in New York have been reluctant to wade very deeply into redistricting disputes,” he said. “We'll see if this changes with the addition of this new (constitutional) language. But none of the judges on the Court of Appeals, which will be the ultimate decision maker, have ever encountered a case like this.”