New York State law requires candidates for statewide office to gather signatures from at least half of the state’s congressional districts to run in the primary election. After New York’s new congressional districts were struck down as a partisan gerrymander in 2022, state election officials finalized ballots anyway for the June primary election for statewide offices.
The League of Women Voters of New York and its co-plaintiffs sued to move New York’s congressional primary election from June 28, 2022 to August 23, 2022, arguing that using illegal congressional districts as a basis for gathering petition signatures violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
In 2014, New York voters approved state constitutional amendments banning partisan and racial gerrymandering and delegating redistricting to an independent redistricting commission subject to approval by the New York Legislature. Under the new amendments, the Legislature could, subject to restrictions on racial and partisan gerrymandering and dividing communities of interest, propose its own map if it rejects the commission's maps twice.
A candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, or comptroller in New York must gather signatures for nominating petitions from half of the state’s congressional districts to qualify for the ballot.
On April 27, 2022, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, upheld a trial court ruling striking down the newly enacted congressional and state Senate districts as partisan gerrymanders. On remand, the trial court issued an order moving the primary election of congressional and state Senate elections from June 28, 2022, to August 23, 2022. On May 20, 2022, the trial court implemented new congressional maps drawn by a special master.
On May 4, 2022, state elections officials certified the ballot for the June 28 primary election even though no new congressional districts had been implemented and the candidates that had qualified for the ballot had done so based upon districts ruled to be illegal.
The League of Women Voters of New York filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, asserting that the finalization of the ballot despite the invalidation of the state’s congressional map violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of its members.
The League argued that state election officials’ decision to certify a primary election ballot prevented both potential candidates from running in the major parties’ primaries and voters from providing signatures to nominate those candidates.
The plaintiffs also argued that certifying the ballot meant that the candidates who qualified under the illegal congressional districts were effectively exempted from signature-gathering requirements, since there were no congressional districts in place to gather signatures from. The plaintiffs also objected to the state trial court’s advisory opinion, which set May 31 as the last day for independent candidates to file nominating petitions, meaning they would only have eleven days to file when state law normally provided six weeks.
Finally, the state trial court’s advisory opinion reduced the signature requirements for major party candidates but not for independent candidates.
The League requested the court to move the primaries for statewide officials from June 28, 2022, to August 23, 2022, and to both require the candidates for statewide office to resubmit nomination petitions by and extend the deadline to gather nomination petition signatures to June 20, 2022, or later.
The court denied the League’s request for relief. The primary took place as planned on June 28, 2022.
The League is represented by Howell Shuster LLP.
The League files its Complaint
The League files a lawsuit seeking to move the date of the primary election for New York State offices from June 28, 2022, to August 23, 2022. The suit argued that state officials unlawfully certified a primary ballot based on congressional districts that had been struck down as a partisan gerrymander.
The District Court denies the League’s Petition for Preliminary Relief
The court denies the League’s request to move the primary for statewide officials to August 23, 2022 and allow new nominating petitions to be filed.