Proposed Solution on Redistricting

Independent Nine Member Bi-Partisan Commission
Source of Proposal: 
New York City Bar
Proposal Attachment: 
Summary of Proposal: 

The Committee’s proposed amendment mandates a permanent districting commission whose members would be appointed to ten-year terms, beginning one year prior to the decennial census. A permanent staff with technical expertise is also mandated. Each of the four legislative leaders would appoint two commission members, who may not be sitting legislators or judges. Six commissioners, including at least one from each appointing authority, would then have to agree on a chairperson as the ninth member. Their choice would also require the assent of the Governor. The authority of the Legislature and the Governor would end with the appointment of the commission.

Plans for legislative and congressional redistricting could be adopted by a majority of the commission, but only if the plans receive the affirmative vote of the chair. This configuration should result in a process that resembles a last-best-offer-arbitration, with the chair in the center forging a deciding majority.
The amendment lists by priority the criteria on which any plan must be based and requires the commission to issue a report showing how the criteria have been satisfied. Highest are population equality and fair representation of minority groups, as required by the U.S. Constitution and federal law, with contiguous territory also an absolute requirement for all districts; lowest is incumbency protection; and respect for the borders of counties and local subdivisions, compactness, recognition of communities of interest, and administrative efficiency, are arrayed in between.
Although the Supremacy Clause elevates all federal constitutional and statutory requirements, including those of the Voting Rights Act, above rules established in the State Constitution, we are mindful of the Equal Protection principle that racial considerations may not predominate over traditional, race-neutral redistricting criteria. The proposed amendment therefore provides that the subordinate criteria “be used to create districts that will afford fair representation to the members of those racial and linguistic minority groups who are sufficiently numerous and whose residential patterns afford the opportunity of creating districts in which they will be able to elect representatives of their choice.” (Emphasis added.)
The plans for both legislative and congressional districts would be wholly insulated from legislative review. A commission plan may be overturned by the state courts if it is clearly erroneous under the criteria of the amendment. Any plan would still, of course, be subject to review in federal courts.
The amendment would repeal §§ 2, 3, 4, 5, 5-a, and 7 of Article III, and substitute new §§ 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. (References to sections of the proposed amendment or of the existing Constitution use the ‘§’ symbol. The title ‘Section’ – e.g., ‘Section V-A’ – is used for cross-references to sections of this report.)



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