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Steuben court to hear sides in NY redistricting challenge

Redistricting Setup WEB

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Plaintiffs challenging New York’s congressional and State Senate maps appear in court Thursday in an attempt to have a judge throw out the maps on procedural and constitutional grounds.

Under the New York State Constitution, any citizen may bring a lawsuit challenging the maps. A group of 14 petitions, backed by Republicans, filed their case in Steuben County Supreme Court last month.

The petition argues New York State legislative and executive leaders, all Democrats, improperly passed the maps in violation of the procedures instituted by a constitutional amendment in 2014. They also argue the maps disproportionately favor Democrats, violating new constitutional language.

Of the 26 new districts, 22 favor Democrats. There are currently eight districts represented by Republicans in New York.

Shawn Donahue, assistant professor in political science at the University at Buffalo said while New York courts have historically deferred to the authority of the State Legislature to draw maps, they could rule different with the new provision barring gerrymandering.

"One of the things about this new constitutional amendment is that it's new,” Donahue said. “It's going to be an issue of first impression to some degree."

Lawyers for the defendants argue the maps are not gerrymandered and that the Legislature had the authority to pass them.

Under the Constitution, the court must render an initial decision before the first week of April.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.