The state judge overseeing the redrawing of state districts scheduled only a public hearing on the matter before the maps are finalized on May 20th.
ALBANY, NY – Community activists and lawmakers traveled to a rural court in western New York on Friday to assess the shape of state political district maps and to ask a judge for more opportunities for the public to be heard.
The state judge overseeing the redrawing of the New York State Congressional and Senate districts scheduled only a public hearing on the matter before the maps are finalized on May 20th.
Anyone wishing to speak publicly on the subject could present something in writing in court or appear in person on Friday in the courtroom of Judge Patrick McAllister in Bath, New York, about 60 miles south of Rochester.
The court is working on a tight schedule to make the maps after the state’s highest court ruled that previous versions drafted by the Democratic-controlled legislature were unconstitutional.
Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute of Politics and Strategy, faces a deadline of May 16 to publish his first draft of the replacement maps.
“We ask that you have more hearings, especially after the map is published,” Esmeralda Simmons, a special pro bono lawyer at Medgar Evers College’s Center for Law and Social Justice, told Friday’s hearing. “We want you to know that New Yorkers deserve to be heard and will want to be heard.”
Earlier this week, McAllister turned down requests to allow people to testify at the remote hearing, saying his court did not have the capacity to allow a large number of people to do so.
“Unfortunately, I am not able to provide a remote option that allows everyone across the state to appear and comment,” the judge wrote in a May 3 letter to the director of the New York civic engagement board. Melody Lopez. “But a person can appear and testify in person.”
The judge said the court will review the records of hearings held by the state’s independent district redistribution commission last fall.
This commission’s effort to redraw the boundaries of political districts, something that is required every 10 years, collapsed due to a partisan blockade.
The Legislature then approved its own maps without any public intervention or hearings like the one held by the judge on Friday.
Angel Vásquez, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, urged the court to consider some of the committee’s rejected proposals.
The court has ordered that the state primary elections for the state Senate and the U.S. House be moved to August 23, from the date originally scheduled for June 28, so there will be enough time to redraw the maps. State officials have asked a federal judge to approve the change.
On Wednesday, former Democratic candidate Gary Greenberg filed a lawsuit asking McAllister to launch and order new State Assembly maps and also delay Assembly races until August 23rd.