Opinion Editorial on Redistricting Prisoners
New York’s Redistricting CharadeEditorial
New York’s legislative redistricting committee is holding public hearings around the state, but the exercise is a sham. The new political districts are being drawn in secret for one overriding purpose: to protect party majorities and incumbents, often for life.
If the Legislature resists, Governor Cuomo should quickly name an informal, independent group to create alternative maps that would keep communities together, have about the same number of voters per district and count prisoners in their home districts, not where they are incarcerated. His maps could be useful if courts look for guidance to redistrict fairly after a veto.
Here are some issues that need to be resolved soon:
¶New York lost two Congressional seats, going from 29 seats to 27 as a result of the 2010 census. In the past, legislators simply agreed to eliminate one Democratic district and one Republican. They should, instead, be drawing lines in ways that keep communities together.
¶While Congressional districts must have the same number of voters, there is no such requirement for state legislative districts. An urban district can end up with 10 percent more voters than a rural district upstate. Governor Cuomo should resist attempts to make the difference greater than a total of 2 percent.
¶The new district lines need to be in place by early 2012 so that candidates can adjust their campaigns. The deadline could be earlier if New York needs to push its primary into early summer to allow time to send absentee ballots overseas.
Governor Cuomo must resist delaying tactics from lawmakers. He should press for a truly independent commission now to map districts in a straightforward way. Without meaningful reform very soon, New York could be stuck with the morass in Albany for another decade.