Leading Voice on 2012 Redistricting Cuomo Amendment

Constitutional Topic: 
2014 Redistricting Cuomo Amendment
Source: 
Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause-NY
Leading Voice Position: 
Negotiated in secret by legislative leaders and the Governor, and passed in the dead of night without any opportunity for public comment or amendment, the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature in March, 2012 contains many troubling or inadequate provisions. Common Cause/NY opposes its passage.
Executive Summary: 

1. It uses the constitution to give political parties a legal and express stranglehold on redistricting.  
2. It sets up on even number commission, to foster gridlock in order to allow the Legslature to take over.
3. It memorializes and requires a patronage driven system for redistricting.
4. It  leaves the confusing and unconstitutional provisions of the current contstitution in place.
5. It doesn't expressly prohibit gerrymandering. 
6. It doesn't set the number of senate districts or clarify how the number is to be determined.
7. It encourages malapportionment between districts and regions.

Detailed Statement: 

 

Negotiated in secret by legislative leaders and the Governor, and passed in the dead of night without any opportunity for public comment or amendment, the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature in March, 2012 contains many troubling or inadequate provisions.  Common Cause/NY opposes its passage.

While we find much that falls short in the proposal, our greatest concerns center on the following aspects of the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment.

1.It uses the constitution to give political parties a legal and express stranglehold on redistricting.  Nothing could be further from NewYorkers' express wishes. Requiring party control of redistricting is the opposite of an independent process and elevates the interests of incumbents and the political parties over the interest of the voters. 

2. It sets up on even number commission, to foster gridlock in order to allow the Legslature to take over. If the commssion is unable to draw maps or the maps are rejected by the Legislature, the Legislature is able to draw its own maps.

3. It memorializes and requires a patronage driven system for redistricting.  The proposal requires that there be a dual staff, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Again this is the exact opposite of what New Yorkers have repeatedly said they want - an independent non-politicized process.

4. It  leaves the confusing and unconstitutional provisions of the current contstitution in place. It is well-recognized that the current constitutional language governing redistricting is confusing, has been held to violate one-person one-vote by the Us Supreme Court and is generally unworkable.   Since the US Supreme Court ruling in 1964, every redistricting has resulted in litigation, not only under the federal Voting Rights Act, but also in state court, asking the courts to interpret the completely unclear language. It is absurd to amend the redistricting provision and not get rid of the confusing unconstitutional language.  Instead, the proposed amendment makes its provisions subject to the "requirements" of the state constitution.

5.  It doesn't expressly prohibit gerrymandering. Instead there is weak language which will be ignored.

6.  It doesn't set the number of senate districts or clarify how the number is to be determined. The current constitution's proivsion regarding how to calculate the number of senate districts invites abuse and has resulted in litigation for each of the last 4 redistricting cycles, including the current one.

7. It encourages malapportionment between districts and regions.  It eliminates requirements that districts in the same county and towns bordering one another in the Assembly must be literally equivalent in size and does not require that districts be closer in size to each other than the loose federal standard for state legislative districts. This encourages political gerrymandering and allows big differences in the size of districts between regions.

 

 

 

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