- Create an Independent Redistricting Commission to Draw District Boundaries for the 2012 Elections and Beyond. The current system of gerrymandered districts prevents an honest process of drawing fair and impartial districts. As districts have become increasingly politically polarized, so too have their elected officials. Creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw legislative and congressional district lines removes the inherent conflict of interest from the elected officials and gives responsibility to an independent body charged with drawing district lines in a fair and sensible manner.
- Require that Commissioners Be Appointed from A Pool of Diverse and Qualified Candidates, and Set Guidelines to Ensure That Racial and Language Minorities Have Fair and Effective Representation. The redistricting process is currently not reflective or responsive to New York’s diverse citizenry. The Commissioners should be representative of both genders and the state’s racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The Commissioners should not hold, or have not held, an elective office, a party position, or other positions or employment that would present conflicts of interest, with additional procedures to ensure that the commission itself is also reflective of the state’s voters. The legislation additionally requires districts to be drawn to protect minority and language voting rights.
- Require That Districts Be Compact and Contiguous, and Drawn So As Not To Favor Or Disfavor Any Candidate or Political Party. New York’s incumbents have a staggeringly high re-election rate of 96% over the last twelve years. This phenomenon is caused, in part, by the way in which district lines are drawn. Indeed, incumbents can draw district lines in order to marginalize their most potent challengers, even within the same party. For example, after Hakeem Jeffries won 41% of the 2000 primary vote against 20-year Assemblyman Roger Green, the district lines were redrawn, leaving Jeffries’ residence just outside of Green’s new district in 2002. When districts are manipulated to avoid electoral challenges, the voters are denied a choice on Election Day. If district lines were consistently drawn to benefit constituents and their communities, one would expect that Senate and Assembly districts would share many common boundaries. Instead, the lines for each body look radically different. The Senate, under Republican control for most of the last four decades, has drawn upstate districts which tend to be more conservative so they have fewer people than districts downstate, thereby maximizing the number of Republican seats in the State Senate. The Assembly does the opposite, drawing downstate districts which tend to be more liberal with fewer people, thereby maximizing the number of Democratic seats in the Assembly. The impact of this partisan process is to fracture communities to ensure incumbent legislators are re-elected to office every two years.
- Require that Districts be Nearly Equal in Size. Only 29 of 212 legislative districts (14 percent) were within one percent of the “ideal population size” when drawn in 2002. Indeed, New York’s legislative districts can be dramatically different in size, pushing the threshold of the legally permissible. A recent analysis of district populations found that State Assembly districts ranged in size from 121,111 people to 133,038 people, and State Senate districts ranged in size from 290,925 people to 320,851 people. Those districts with greater population are denied the same level of representation as those with far fewer residents. The legislation would require that state legislative districts not deviate by more than one percent from the mean populations of each house’s districts.
- Require ample public hearings and opportunities for public comment, including full access to data, maps, criteria, software used, and proposed plans. For too long the public has been shut out of the process, which leads to cynicism and public skepticism.
- Encourage the Approval of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s Plan With Input from the Legislature. Under the legislation, the Legislature has the opportunity to provide feedback on up to two plans submitted by the commission, and can only amend a third plan with amendments that meet the statutory guidelines established. This is consistent with the Legislature’s authority under the State Constitution to ultimately approve a redistricting plan.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 23 March 2011 19:35)