BATH, N.Y. (WETM) — A judge has ordered New York’s Democrat-controlled Legislature to quickly redraw the state’s congressional and legislative districts after finding they were unconstitutional.

Steuben County Judge Patrick McAllister said in a Thursday ruling that maps redrawing the state’s congressional districts were gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. McAllister said those districts must be redrawn, along with the legislative districts, in a way that attracted at least some bipartisan support.

McAllister, a state trial court judge, gave lawmakers until April 11 to try again. If their new maps fail to pass muster in the courts again, then the judge said he would order the state to pay for a court-approved expert to redraw the maps.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, George Winner, said today’s decision is a victory for the people of New York.

“The trial court determined that the proof met beyond the reasonable doubt that the Constitution was violated with regard to the partisan gerrymandering that occurred…I’m hopeful that the Court of Appeals will uphold the provisions of this 2014 constitution,” said Winner.

Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James issued the following joint statement in response to the New York Supreme Court’s rejection of the state’s current redistricting plans: “We intend to appeal this decision.” 

A member from New York’s independent redistricting committee claims Republicans strategically filed this lawsuit in Steuben County because McAllister is a “Republican judge who donates to GOP.”

The plaintiff’s attorney, George Winner responded to this claim by saying, “Steuben County was chosen because, Steuben County, in our judgment, was going to give us a fair, impartial, and professional opinion, and decision.”

Legislative leaders also said they would appeal the ruling.

“This is one step in the process. We always knew this case would be decided by the appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will stay as the appeal process proceeds,” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the Senate majority.

The state’s primary elections are scheduled for June 28th and candidates have already begun campaigning in the new districts. Now candidates are on standby, unsure of what district they are running for.

“If suddenly we have new maps, then we everybody, including myself, would have to reassess if they’re running and where they’re running,” Congressional candidate Joe Sempolinski said.

Sempolinkski told 18 News he would only throw his hat in the race if incumbent Congresswoman Claudia Tenney was not running in his district.

“I had been upfront with everyone that I wasn’t planning on running as a sitting member of Congress, I was running for what I expected to be an open seat due to Congressman [Tom] Reed retiring,” Sempolinski said.
“I made it clear right away that I wasn’t planning on primarying Claudia, if these maps held up in court.”

Sempolinkski said he will decide on his run when the final maps are released.

The judge said that if the Legislature fails again and an outside expert is hired to draw the maps, the process would be expensive and lengthy and may leave the state without maps before Aug. 23, the last possible date that the state could push back its primary election.

Republicans had argued in a lawsuit that the maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats and marginalize GOP voters.

Legislative and congressional boundaries are being redrawn as part of the once-per-decade redistricting process kicked off by the 2020 Census.

The maps, drafted by lawmakers and approved by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, ensured that Democrats made up a strong majority of registered voters in 22 of the 26 congressional districts the state will have for a decade.

Republicans currently hold eight of New York’s 27 seats in Congress.

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Associated Press writer Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.