Lawyers Democracy Fund recently filed an amicus brief in Hoffmann v. New York State Independent Redistricting Commission at the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. In Hoffman, New York voters are challenging the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission’s congressional and legislative maps from the 2020 Census on the basis that improper procedure was allegedly used to adopt the maps after they were initially rejected by the New York Legislature. In July, a state appellate court ordered the Commission to redo the state congressional map. The decision was appealed and is now before the Court of Appeals of the State of New York (New York’s highest state court). LDF’s brief is in support of the Intervenors-Appellants in the case.
LDF’s brief makes the following major arguments:
1. A 2024 redistricting would be impractical—and maybe impossible—for New York’s election boards to administer.
“Should this Court order the Independent Redistricting Commission and the State Legislature to conduct another round of Congressional redistricting for the 2024 election, it will have to be done while New York’s election boards are already working to implement a number of major changes to the Election Law that have been imposed upon them in recent years. Running elections in 2024 — a presidential election year — while also making the changes required to deal with new Congressional districts is impractical — if not impossible — for New York’s election boards.”
2. Persistent dysfunction in New York State’s election boards will be exacerbated by a mid-decade redistricting, likely resulting in major election administration failures.
“Rightly or wrongly, the words ‘incompetence’ and ‘ineptitude’ have long been associated with election administration in New York State. Commentators from across the political spectrum — and even some from across the globe — have heaped criticism on New York State’s election administrators. It is not hard to imagine that there might be more than a few kernels of truth in these criticisms. Imposing new Congressional districts on New York State and saddling New York’s already troubled elections boards with new districts and new responsibilities every two years for a decade opens the door for electoral chaos and further voter disenchantment.”
3. Allowing a mid-decade redistricting reopens the possibility of additional legal challenges to a new congressional map which may result in a botched 2024 ballot access process and 2024 election.
“Should the Court of Appeals compel a second round of Congressional redistricting, it is a near certainty that litigation will follow the Governor signing those maps into law. Anyone who remembers the 2022 process and its upheaval of the primary election and political calendar should want to avoid at all costs a replay of it. Additional legal challenges will necessarily prolong the disruption into 2026 and 2028, just in time for a new census. It would be better for voters and the democratic process to stick with the constitutional maps already in place.”
4. In adopting the 2014 redistricting reform amendment, the voters intended a fair, nonpartisan, nonpolitical redistricting process and this was fulfilled with the congressional map ordered by the Courts in 2022.
“The Congressional district map adopted by court order last year achieved the fair, nonpartisan districts the voters were seeking when they approved the redistricting reform amendment in 2014. The current Congressional district map — a map created by a court-appointed special master, approved by the judiciary, and not appealed — gave New York, in 2022, an historic number of competitive races for Congress. This is precisely what the voters of New York intended when they voted, in 2014, for the redistricting reform amendment. Altering or redrawing this map — by the Independent Redistricting Commission, the state legislature, or anyone — would more likely than not make it less competitive, more gerrymandered, and more incumbent-friendly, and that would be contrary to the wishes, desires, and intentions of the voters of New York. Maintaining and preserving the existing Congressional district map is the best way to uphold the intentions of the voters who approved the redistricting reform amendment in 2014. New York’s Congressional districts are the districts voters were seeking and intending when they voted overwhelmingly for the 2014 redistricting reform amendment.”
Oral arguments at the Court of Appeals are scheduled for November 15, 2023.