Part of New York’s redistricting decision is ‘unusual’

Patrick McAllister, Steuben County Judge ruled Thursday that the maps of Congress, the Senate and the New York State Assembly drawn by the Legislature were unconstitutional gerrymanders.

He also ruled that the maps were “void ab initio” for failing to follow the constitutional process of presenting bipartisan maps by the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Unsurprisingly, the judge’s appeal demands that the legislature “be given another chance to pass maps that do not violate the constitution.”

But another part of the judge’s decision raises eyebrows among some constitutional scholars.

McAllister wrote on page 16 of his ruling, “therefore, the court will require that any revised maps generated by the Legislature receive bipartisan support among Democrats and Republicans in both the Senate and the Assembly.”

Christopher Bopst, a partner at Wilder & Linneball in Buffalo, is an expert on the state constitution who has co-authored, with Dr. Peter Galie, several leading reference books on the subject, including “The New York State Constitution”, published by Oxford University Press.

bopst said capital tonight that McAllister’s remedy attempts to inject bipartisanship into the process, something that may be beyond the reach of his power.

“It was a bit unusual. I’ve never seen a provision before…that requires a remedy that has to garner bipartisan support,” according to Bopst.

“What the judge…essentially said was ‘you didn’t follow the bipartisan design of [the Independent Redistricting Commission] so I’m going to require there to be bipartisanship in the actual makeup of the legislation before I allow it,” Bopst said. “It’s unusual. And he may have passed that one.

Bopst said it was unclear whether the decision would hold up on appeal.

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