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Judge orders redistricting panel to redraw New York’s Assembly districts for 2024

New York’s once defunct Independent Redistricting Commission will get another shot at doing its job following a court order Thursday.
Vaughn Golden
New York’s once defunct Independent Redistricting Commission will get another shot at doing its job following a court order Thursday.

A judge in Manhattan has decided to charge the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, or IRC, to draft new state Assembly districts for 2024 elections.

The decision, handed down Thursday afternoon, charges the IRC with drafting new maps, which will then be delivered to the Legislature and governor for approval.

The districts used in this current election cycle were ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. An appellate court decided to leave the maps in place for 2022 elections, given there wasn’t enough time to draw new ones before primary elections.

Legislative leaders, as well as Governor Kathy Hochul, had pushed for the judge to use the IRC to redraw the maps over an independent redistricting expert or special master, despite the panel having deadlocked and failed earlier this year. That lead to months of litigation and eventual rescheduling of congressional and state Senate primaries, after those maps were invalidated.

“The 10 IRC members are all from New York, they know the communities and I think if they’re tasked with that, I think they will be up to the task,” Assembly speaker Carl Heastie told WSKG about the effort to reconvene the IRC earlier this year.

The judge’s decision was met with opposition from Common Cause New York, a good government group.

“Today’s ruling is yet again another disappointment in the ongoing redistricting mess. We’ve seen this movie before. We know how it ends,” wrote Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, in a statement Thursday evening.

The judge ordered the IRC to hold several hearings across the state before presenting draft maps to the Legislature for approval, no later than April 28. Similar to the constitutionally prescribed process, the Legislature may vote down and the governor may veto the maps. The IRC then gets to submit a second set of maps. But if those also fail to get approval, then the Legislature will be able to draw its own districts. The process will play out over the next few months, potentially stretching into the early summer of 2023.

Ultimately, the Manhattan judge, Justice Laurence L. Love, retained jurisdiction over the redrawing process, including any subsequent legal challenges to the new maps should they arise.