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Lawsuit seeking new congressional lines for NY could have national political implications

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Lawyers seeking redrawn congressional lines in New York argued before a state appeals court Thursday in a Democrat-backed lawsuit that could have implications in the 2024 fight for control of the House.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 10 New York voters who want a state redistricting commission to submit new proposed state congressional lines for 2024. A victory for the plaintiffs would scrap lines drafted for 2022 by an outside expert after a legal challenge. Republicans were able to flip four congressional seats in New York under those lines.

Democrats who support the lawsuit said they want to ensure that a state commission approved by voters prior to the 2022 election, to draw political maps, gets to fulfill its constitutional duty. Republicans accused Democrats of seeking a political advantage.

“Their goal here, if they win, would be to put this case back in the backrooms of Albany and in D.C., so they can gerrymander the state,” former Republican Rep. John Faso said after the arguments in the appellate division of the state Supreme Court.

New York’s political maps for 2022 were supposed to have been drawn by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, a body made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. But the commission failed to reach a consensus and the Democrat-controlled Legislature stepped in and created its own maps.

The Legislature’s maps would have given Democrats a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts. Republicans accused the Democrats of gerrymandering.

After a court challenge, New York’s highest court ruled the Legislature lacked the authority to redraw the lines. The Court of Appeals handed authority to draw new district maps to an expert, who drew up more competitive congressional districts.

Republicans were able to gain seats in New York under those maps, including one held by Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who ran the House Democrats’ campaign arm. The Republican romp in New York came even as Democrats ran stronger than expected nationally.

Republicans currently hold a 222-213 edge over Democrats in the House.

The voters filed a lawsuit last year against the commission and its members, alleging violations of the state Constitution’s redistricting commission provisions. They seek to compel the commission to submit new proposed congressional lines.

A state trial court judge in Albany rejected the request in September.

In April, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and State Attorney General Letitia James jointly filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of legal action.

The voters’ lawyer told the five-judge panel Thursday that the redistricting process approved by voters was never completed.

“The IRC indisputably did not meet the constitutionally mandated duty it had to draw the congressional map,” attorney Aria Branch told the judges.

Lawyers who want to keep the 2022 maps argued that they are constitutional and should remain in place for the rest of the decade.

The case is expected to ultimately be decided by the state Court of Appeals.

Michael Hill, The Associated Press

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