Judge rules against Democrats' petition to block 63rd Senate seat

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April 14, 2012

By Lauren Rodgers

ALBANY, NY: A justice on the New York Supreme Court ruled against a group of Democrats in the state Senate who were trying to prevent a 63rd Senate district from being created.

In mid-September 2011, it was reported that Senate Republicans were considering adding another seat to the current 62 member chamber. The addition of the new seat, which would most likely be located in the Albany area, was viewed by many as an attempt to hold their majority. Additionally, making the total seats an odd number would ensure there would always be a majority, avoiding situations where a tied number of seats could potentially shut down the chamber as it did in 2009.[1]

In response, Senate Democratic Conference Spokesman Mike Murphy issued a statement calling the move unconstitutional. "What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created. We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power. They are playing a dangerous game with the state constitution and the redistricting process. Unfortunately, the Senate GOP has made it clear that they care more about protecting their partisan interests than the people of New York State," he stated.[2]

The state constitution set the number of Senate seats at 50 in 1894, allowing districts only to be added based on a complex formula of county versus state growth. Sen. Mike Gianaris (D) called the move by Republicans "desperate," stating, “the number of senators is not a matter of discretion. It’s set with a mathematical formula in the constitution, no matter how you interpret that formula, the number this year comes out 62.”[3]

On Friday, April 13, Justice Richard Braun wrote that while he found the Republican's methodology for its redistricting to be "disturbing," the petition filed by the Democrats did not sufficiently establish that the process was unconstitutional.[4] Republicans applauded the decision; Murphy announced his group will appeal the decision.

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