State to pay $147,000 for ‘special master’ and team political cards

ALBANY — New York State must pay more than $147,000 to the “special master” of redistricting and his team for drawing the maps of Congress and the New York State Senate after the Court of Appeals rejected maps drawn by Democrats saying they violated the state Constitution.

The state is on the hook for $147,123.25, according to a document filed in Steuben County Supreme Court this week. It falls to a six-person team, led by Carnegie Mellon University political scientist and redistricting expert Dr. Jonathan Cervas, according to the order, signed by Acting State Supreme Court Justice Patrick F McAllister.

Cervas recruited Bernard Grofman, a political scientist at the University of California at Irvine and an expert on redistricting, as a consultant.

Cervas then had three research assistants and a data scientist on his team.

A court order from McAllister on April 18 said Cervas would be retained to draw the Congressional maps for a fee not to exceed $90,000. The Court of Appeals on April 27 ruled that the special master would draw both the Congressional and State Senate maps. Cervas and his team completed the maps on May 20.

Cervas filed a fee request on May 31, according to the order.

“The court finds that the fees are consistent with the original contract and reasonable in light of the need to prepare both Congressional and state Senate redistricting maps,” reads the order McAllister signed on June 1.

Cervas, in a letter submitted to the court, said he and his team, in the short time to prepare the maps, had reviewed the documents submitted to the Independent Redistricting Commission, the several hundred testimonial emails, the testimonies delivered in person to the court, the map submissions and the 3,000 comments sent to the court.

The new maps have left some politicians scrambling to figure out which district to run in the next election. A few lawmakers have lamented that the drawn cards divide communities of color, in violation of federal voting rights law, though no litigation has yet been filed and Cervas said its top priority is to comply with federal and state laws.

The state Congressional and Senate primary races are scheduled for Aug. 23.

The new maps are also seen by political scientists as far less pro-Democratic than the one drawn by the party and endorsed by Governor Kathy Hochul earlier this year. Cervas, in a letter he submitted to the court, said he had drawn the maps “blindly from the homes of the incumbents” and that they were intended to come out with “partisan neutrality”. He drew neighborhoods that were supposed to be “reasonably compact”.

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