Update: we won!!!
Appeals Court upholds decision to throw out Broome County’s illegal county legislative district map The New York Supreme Court (Appellate Division, Third Department) upheld Supreme Court Justice Joseph McBride’s decision to “declare void” the gerrymandered and illegal county legislative map enacted by the Broome County legislature. They found that the map violated New York State law and directed the county to draw a new map “without delay.”
Binghamton, NY — November 30, 2023 — Today, the New York Supreme Court (Appellate Division, Third Department) upheld Supreme Court Justice Joseph McBride’s decision to “declare void” the gerrymandered and illegal county legislative map enacted by the Broome County legislature. A unanimous panel of five appellate court justices ruled that Justice McBride was correct in voiding the old map and ordering a new map to be drawn without delay.
The appellate court found credible “evidence suggesting that the true motivation for the division of Maine was an improper political one" (p. 5). In their decision, they found that the Broome County Republican legislators illegally “shifted the bulk of Maine's 'heavily Republican' electorate into two 'marginal' districts nearby, making each more 'hospitable for the members of the majority party [in the County Legislature] who hold [those] seats" (p. 5). Fair Maps for Broome County was gratified that all five appeals judges agreed with the argument made by John L. Perticone, of Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP, that included expert analysis from Jonathan Krasno, Professor of Political Science at Binghamton University. With this ruling the Appellate Court affirms that the Republican-controlled County Legislature broke the law in an effort to gerrymander the county legislature for the benefit of the majority party. They did this by:
● creating county legislative districts unequal in population and using the wrong population dataset;
● dividing the Town of Maine into three districts in violation of the plain language of New York State law, which states that towns of that size “shall” not be divided;
● adopting a map that was opposed by every member of the public speaking at the public hearings;
● adopting a map unsupported by any expert opinion offered to the legislature; and
● doing everything they could to preserve the Republican majority in the county legislature.
As of today, five appellate judges agreed with the citizens of Broome County and threw out the illegal and gerrymandered map. This will allow the residents of Broome County to have equal representation in their county legislature in future elections, including for the 2024 Broome County Legislative election.
As Janet Beal, Treasurer of Fair Maps for Broome Inc, put it: “The whole point of our representative government is that the people get a fair chance to choose the people who speak for them, and that applies to all levels of government. We shouldn't just focus on national elections, because local government is critically important in shaping the kind of community we are.” Matthew Johnson, President of Fair Maps for Broome Inc, added that “when this map was considered, members of the public, lawyers, and redistricting experts told county legislators and the county executive that it violated the law, but they approved it anyway. So, we were in the unfortunate position of having illegitimate representation in our county legislature.”
Now that the Republican county legislators’ illegal maps have been voided, the citizens of Broome County will have need to make sure they don’t try to break the law again. The courts and the law require them to draw a new and fair map should be implemented prior to the 2024 elections. Fair Maps for Broome County will demand that the new map will be drawn in an open process that encourages citizen engagement.