Like a sequel to a horror movie most people never saw in the first place, New York’s redistricting saga continues to play out in court rooms and administrative offices from Washington, DC and Albany. Even before Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a compromised redistricting agreement with state legislators—which was ultimately a reversal on his promise to veto maps drawn by said legislators—legal activity surrounding the contentious redrawing of the state’s political boundaries has kept the compromise signed into law by the Governor from being the final word. The redistricting afterlife, it turns out, consists of three levels of political purgatory.
The first exists in the inferno of the state’s legal system by way of the Cohen case. The plaintiffs in this case, who are aligned with the Senate Democrats, filed a lawsuit against the Senate Republicans over their at-the-time proposed 63 Senate-seat plan. During the first hearing in the case, the judge decided the case wasn’t ready proceed because the Republican-drawn maps hadn’t been signed into law. Now that they are, the case is moving forward. The plaintiffs argue a 63rd Senate seat is unconstitutional because the method Senate Republicans used this year were different than the court-supported method in 2000. If the judge in the case agrees with them, the Republicans will then have to go back to the drawing board and, within 30 days, come up with a new 62-seat plan. Governor Cuomo will be a Sisyphean choice of signing another redistricting plan into law which good government groups and fellow Democrats in the Senate will ask him not to. The state court is anticipated to rule in the Cohen case soon.
Meanwhile, the Senate and Assembly have their plans stewing away in the Department of Justice cauldron in Washington, DC. The DoJ is reviewing their plans to make sure they comply with the Voting Rights Act. The plans have also been submitted to a three-judge federal court in DC, in an attempt to speed up DoJ’s 60-day preclearance process. If the defendants in the Cohen case—that is, Senate Republicans—either win the case or get an injunction to let their plan move forward while they appeal, the DoJ review will continue and be resolved by May 15 at the latest. The federal courts reviewing New York’s new lines have asked DoJ to give some sort of answer by this Friday.