A lawsuit challenging the U.S. House district maps in New York is being expanded to include the lines for state Senate seats, according to a filing submitted Tuesday.
The legal challenge to the redistricting process, controlled this year by majority Democrats in both chambers of the state Legislature, comes amid a heightened national battle for control of statehouses and the House of Representatives in Washington.
Republican opponents of the maps approved last week by Gov. Kathy Hochul have argued the district lines unfairly favor Democratic candidates, an assertion supported by good-government organizations and redistricting experts.
The challenge in large part is based on an amendment to the state constitution meant to ban partisan redistricting, known as gerrymandering. The constitution forbids district lines drawn to favor a specific candidate or political party.
“An amended petition has been submitted to the Steuben County Supreme Court in Harkenrider v. Hochul," said Misha Tseytlin and Republican former state Sen. George Winner, attorneys for the 14 plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit. "If accepted by the Court, the Amended Petition would add a challenge to the constitutionality of the state Senate districts, including those adopted under the law signed by Governor Hochul last week.”
Democrats, however, contend the maps were drawn fairly and any advantage is a reflection of the party's overwhelming enrollment advantage in the state.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters she expects the lines will prevail under the court challenge.
Still, the court process will be operating under an extraordinarily tight schedule. Arguments are scheduled for Feb. 24; petitioning for ballot access begins in March. Officials on both sides of the redistricting fight expect the case to go to the state Court of Appeals, New York's top court.
The legal challenge may require further legislative action, such as redrawing some districts or reducing the number of petition signatures to be able to qualify for the ballot.
Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday indicated lawmakers will be ready to make any changes if necessary.
"We can be nimble should we have to be," she said.