New York Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday filed an amicus brief alleging the current congressional map drawn by a court-appointed special master last year must not remain in effect until 2030, or the remainder of the next decade until the next federal census.
Special Master Jonathan Cervas was appointed to redraw the lines ahead of the 2022 election after the Legislature rejected the lines crafted by the state Independent Redistricting Commission and after the state Court of Appeals rejected the lines drawn by the Legislature.
The governor and James assert the 10-member commission has significant time to generate new maps and follow the process outlined in the state Constitution to create congressional maps going forward, according to the brief, filed in the Appellate Division, Third Department.
“Our state’s Constitution makes it clear that an independent body, with participation from the general public, is charged with drawing maps for Congressional districts,” James said in a prepared statement. “Relying on a process with no accountability and with limited time for public input is not how we engage the public and ensure their interests are addressed throughout this process. I am committed to ensuring our electoral process is as transparent as possible and that we follow the process outlined in our Constitution. New Yorkers deserve free and fair elections, and to have a say in how their communities will be represented in Congress.”
The bipartisan commission is tasked with creating new state Assembly, Senate and U.S. congressional district lines once each decade following the U.S. census. The Legislature rejected the commission's maps following the 2020 census. The state Court of Appeals threw out the maps on April 27, 2022, pushing the courts to appoint a special master to generate new lines in time for last year's contentious elections.
“I am committed to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers to fully participate in our electoral system," Gov. Hochul said. “We are urging the court to support the Constitutionally-protected process in order to ensure accountability and fairness for New York voters.”
In their amicus brief, James and Hochul note the state constitution clearly states the state Legislature must have the opportunity to remedy electoral maps found to be invalid by a court. The short timeframe to draw new electoral maps and get their approval was the main catalyst for the state Court of Appeals' decision to involve a special master.
In their suit, the attorney general and governor allege the Appellate Division must reverse the lower court order to order members of the Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw the election district lines within the state's congressional delegation as required by the Constitution.
AG Assistant Solicitor General Andrea Trento, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey W. Lang and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions — continue to assist in the investigation.