A state appellate court Thursday ruled New York's redistricting commission should draw new congressional lines, a victory for Democrats and one Republicans in the state signaled they will work to appeal to the highest court in the state.
The split decision by a five-judge panel at the Appellate Division was 3-2 in favor of redrawing the new lines.
The case could ultimately have long-lasting ramifications for New York and the country.
Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and New York is home to a handful of key battleground congressional districts, mostly in the New York City metropolitan region and parts of the Hudson Valley and Central New York.
Republicans last year scored a clear victory when the state Court of Appeals ruled on largely procedural grounds in favor of a separate GOP-backed lawsuit that threw the redistricting process to a lower court judge, who appointed a special master to draw the lines.
Republicans subsequently picked up a handful of House seats under the new lines.
Should the process begin anew, the redistricting commission would be tasked with drawing new lines. But if the commission deadlocks, the map drawing would be placed in the hands of the state Legislature. Both chambers are controlled by Democratic supermajorities.
But the Court of Appeals has since changed, including its top judge, Rowan Wilson, who had sided with the dissent in the previous redistricting case a year ago.
Democrats, meanwhile, started a new legal challenge to essentially re-start the redistricting in New York, which typically happens once a decade based on the results of the U.S. Census.
In Thursday's ruling, the majority decision found the plaintiffs in the suit have "a clear legal right to the relief sought. This determination honors the consitutional enactments as the means of providing a robust, fair and equitable procedure for the determination of voting districts in New York."
The law firm arguing for new lines is led by Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic elections lawyer.
"New Yorkers deserve the fair lines and fair process they voted for, and today’s decision is a huge step in the right direction. We are thrilled that the Court recognized the Independent Redistricting Commission’s constitutional duty to redraw New York’s congressional map," said Ariana Branch, an attorney with the Elias Law Group who argued the case. "We will continue to advocate for the open, fair redistricting process that recognizes New York’s racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity."
Republicans, meanwhile, vowed to take the case to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
"We remain confident the Court of Appeals will uphold the decision in Harkenrider v. Hochul - that the fair lines established by the District Court will be maintained and will preserve the New York Constitution's prohibition against mid-decade redistricting," said former Rep. John Faso, now a state GOP official.
The National Republican Campaign Committee in a separate statement called the legal challenge "a blatant partisan power grab thinly disguised as a court case."
"Republicans will appeal to protect the will of the voters of New York, and we will fight to hold the line in the Empire State, said NRCC Communications Director Jack Pandol.