News Coverage on Redistricting

The Wall Street Journal

Cuomo: New Maps Show 'Progress'

Jacob Gershman
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 

Albany lawmakers took another stab at redrawing state political lines, presenting Gov.Andrew Cuomo with a revised set of maps that they hope will win his approval and avoid a court intervention.

Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats on Monday submitted a revised set of state legislative lines after Mr. Cuomo vowed to veto their first draft. The adjusted maps, publicly disclosed late Monday, did not significantly depart from earlier versions that Mr. Cuomo said were "unacceptable."

 

Still, Mr. Cuomo said they showed "progress," and Senate Republicans insisted they were fairer toward Democrats, removing situations where incumbent Democrats would be forced to run against each other.

Senate Democrats said the lines were still largely engineered to protect Republicans.

"The governor has insisted on a better product and a better process. Right now, we have neither," said Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat of Queens.

Lawmakers also proposed a constitutional amendment that would create an "independent commission," most of whose members would be appointed by legislative leaders, to redraw the lines next time around. The Legislature could still reject and amend the commission's maps.

Since legislative leaders have yet to reach a deal for new lines for the state's members of the House of Representatives, it's increasingly likely that the Brooklyn federal court that has taken control of the process will impose its own map. On Thursday, lawyers for state lawmakers will brief a panel of three federal judges on their progress.

The timeline for the state maps is a bit looser—New York's primary is scheduled for September—but the courts have threatened to intervene soon should Albany fail to act.

The Legislature's latest offering was met with roaring objections from some groups that have clamored for a more independent and less partisan process for drawing the political boundaries. Common Cause of New York said the plan would merely create a "proxy for the Legislature" and "memorialize a system where both parties run roughshod over the voters."

As a candidate and throughout his term, Mr. Cuomo said he'd veto lines that aren't drawn by an independent panel. But as the backroom dealing has worn on and with time running out in the election calendar, the governor has softened his stand.

If lawmakers submit a new set of maps that are less contorted by political agendas, and if they agree to turn over reapportionment to an independent panel in 2020, Mr. Cuomo has signaled that he would give his stamp of approval.

But he has been reluctant to move on the issue until he strikes a budget deal that includes an overhaul of public-employee pension benefits.

Mr. Cuomo, in a radio interview Monday, said the proposed Constitutional amendment "is exciting in the reform it poses," but said it needs to be backed up with a statute establishing a bipartisan redistricting commission should lawmakers ultimately fail to pass the amendment, which requires passage by two consecutive legislative bodies.

Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor who last year won pledges from Mr. Cuomo and other Albany leaders that they'd support independent redistricting, urged Mr. Cuomo not to fall back on his promise of a veto.

"I'm hopeful the governor will carry out his pledge, but I'm hearing rumors to the contrary," Mr. Koch said.

 

 

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