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Federal judge blisters New York Democrats over illegal congressional district map: 'This is a Hail Mary pass'

Mark Makela/Getty Images

A federal judge slammed New York Democrats on Wednesday after they sought an emergency injunction requesting the state's primary election next month use a congressional district map that was illegally gerrymandered.

What is the background?

Last month, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that New York Democrats violated the state constitution by drawing a gerrymandered congressional district map "with impermissible partisan purpose."

Because of the ruling and to allot enough time to redraw the map, congressional and state Senate primary elections were moved from June 28 to Aug. 23.

The map, proposed earlier this year, was described as "brutal" for Republicans because it essentially guaranteed Democrats would win 22 of the state's 26 congressional districts.

What happened now?

New York Democrats sought relief in federal court this week. They argued the state's June primary should be allowed to move forward using the illegal map because there is not enough time to draw "new district lines and still comply with a longstanding federal court order meant to protect the rights of Americans casting ballots from overseas," according to the New York Times.

But federal District Judge Lewis Kaplan, a Democrat, vehemently disagreed.

Kaplan mocked New York Democrats for treating the June 28 date as if it "came down on a stone tablet in the middle of the Negev or wherever Moses brought the tablet down from on high," Politico reported.

"This is a Hail Mary pass, the object of which is to take a long shot try at having the New York primaries conducted on district lines that the state says are unconstitutional," the judge chided.

In fact, Kaplan suggested Democrats' request demonstrated a lack of respect for fair elections and the judicial system.

"In the 102 years since my father, then a Ukrainian refugee, came into this country, if there were two things that he drilled into my head, they were … free, open, rational elections [and] respect for the courts," Kaplan said, Politico reported. "The relief that I’m being asked to give today impinges, to some degree, on the public perception of both. And I’m not going to do that."

What happens now?

In the coming days, a panel of judges, including Kaplan and two others, will hear Democrats' arguments in full. If they reject Democrats' arguments, then Democrats can appeal directly to the Supreme Court. Otherwise, New York's primaries will proceed with newly drawn maps.

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