Remember independent redistricting?
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo scored legislative victories last month, there’s one glaring piece of unfinished piece: establishing an independent panel to draw district lines in 2012. Cuomo wants it done, but Senate Republicans balked and they left town without considering it.
But the issue will take center stage today when the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) holds its first public meeting this morning in Albany.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who heads New York Uprising, and Dick Dadey, the head of Citizens Union, put at a statement this morning urging lawmakers to hold a special session to approve independent redistricting, saying that an overwhelming number of lawmakers last year signed Koch’s pledge to do just that.
Here’s their statement:
On the day the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) holds in Albany its first public meeting, we urge the New York State Legislature to return to the State Capitol this month to meet in a special session and pass legislation creating an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines for the 2012 election cycle. Barring the establishment of a new independent commission, the legislature-drawn lines will no doubt be vetoed by Governor Cuomo, who has pledged to do so.
Had the state legislature done what 184 of its 212 members pledged or co-sponsored to do – create a new impartial process for drawing state legislative and congressional lines – this meeting today of LATFOR would not have been necessary. It is an affront to all those New Yorkers who trusted that their elected officials would arrive in Albany this year and end the practice of partisan gerrymandering as they had promised, and enact redistricting reform legislation. We and they are still waiting.
A total of 96 members of the Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, have co-sponsored legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver creating a new and more independent process. Prevented from signing onto Governor Cuomo’s legislation in the Senate because of the use of an arcane rule, 27 State Senators have indicated their support for two pieces of redistricting reform legislation carried by Senators Mike Gianaris D-Queens or David Valesky, D-Oneida. An additional 31 other Senators said they support redistricting reform during the 2010 campaign but have not cosponsored enacting legislation for 2012.
The rearing of LATFOR’s public head today represents a continuation of the old-school partisan gerrymandering that has existed for over three decades and prioritizes the re-election of incumbents above all else in drawing new districts. This rigged practice has resulted in a 96% re-election rate among incumbents that has divided communities, underrepresented minority groups in the legislature and resulted in few truly competitive elections.
We request legislators honor the commitments they made to their voters and return to Albany pronto to remove the self-interested conflict that exists when they draw the lines for themselves and essentially choose their voters before the voters choose them.
Though it was one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory, the legislature so far deserves only a grade of “I” for “Incomplete” which can be improved if they return and enact redistricting reform as they had promised New Yorkers they would.