“In the 102 years since my father, then a Ukrainian refugee, arrived in this country, if there were two things he forced into my mind, they were…elections free, open and rational. [and] respect for the courts,” said New York Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan, a Democrat. “The relief I am being asked to give today encroaches, to some extent, on the public perception of both. And I’m not going to do that.
Kaplan’s hearing, held in Manhattan but conducted primarily by conference call, was the first step in the latest attempt by Democrats to salvage lines approved by the Legislative Assembly earlier this year. These lines were blocked by state appeals court last weekand the June 28 primary was quickly postponed to August 23 to give a judge time to draw new cards.
National Democrats sued in federal court on Monday.
They pointed to a 2012 federal ruling that New York’s September date for holding the congressional primaries was too late to ensure foreign military voters received ballots on time. Since that case, a federal court in Albany has had to approve any adjustments to the congressional contest schedule; since that hasn’t happened yet, the June 28 date should go ahead as planned, they argued.
Kaplan was highly skeptical that approval for the August date would not be granted soon, rendering the whole Democratic argument moot.
The Democrats were essentially claiming that the June 28 date “came down on a tablet of stone in the middle of the Negev or wherever Moses brought down the tablet from above,” he said. “There is simply no clear reason to believe that the [military voting] the requirements cannot be met by the August date.
Kaplan thus rejected the request for an injunction. Democrats had to prove a “clear probability of success” in future legal arguments to receive this.
“This is a Hail Mary pass, the purpose of which is to try to get the New York primaries to be held on district lines that the state says are unconstitutional,” a he declared.
What happens now: Had the injunction been granted, New York likely would have had to simultaneously pursue plans for a June 28 primary along Democratic lines and the August 23 lines that are currently being drafted by a Steuben County court.
The Aug. 23 date and Steuben County lines are now the only ones on the table, barring some kind of miracle for Democrats in future federal court proceedings.
In the coming days, a panel consisting of Kaplan (who was nominated by Bill Clinton) and two justices appointed by the Republican presidents will hold a full hearing on the Democratic request. Appeals of any decisions arising from these arguments would be taken directly to the Supreme Court.
So currently, June 28 is the date for the primaries for the statewide and state assembly races, while August 23 is the date for the congressional and state senate contests. ‘State.
Democrats have the option of passing legislation to push back the races due to be held in June to coincide with those in August, but it is still far from certain that will happen.
“I don’t know why we would continue to disrupt the process,” Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. “It’s still a little fluid…but the way right now is to continue with June 28 for the statewide primaries.”
“I’m glad that under our leadership in 2019, one of the first things we did was combine the [June and September primary dates] because we understood that not only was it an expense, but it was confusing,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers). “So obviously our general policy has been to combine where we can.”