Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting is the Best Option

Congressional and state legislative redistricting are hot, hot topics across the US.  In New York the issue is coming to a head and good intentions, political theory and hard politics are colliding.

For good reasons and bad, there's a consensus that the role of elected officials should be limited.  Right now redistricting is just another law, passed by both houses and signed by the Governor.  Good government groups and editorialists want to hand over the power to set district lines by appointed commissions.  On the one hand, some of the lines drawn in New York (and elsewhere) are grotesque.  On the other, it's still a democracy and we generally prefer decisions be made by elected officials rather than appointed commissions.

NY's redoubtable Ed Koch has been the leader of the commission forces and through sheer force of character got every politician in the state to sign up with him.  But little has happened, nothing at all for this cycle, and the negotiations are focused on ten years from now.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken a tough, Koch-ish position, but there are signs of division in the ranks.

With good intentions everywhere (maybe) the Koch forces want a law, while others including Cuomo, want to amend the state constitution.  A confession:  While a Member of the Assembly I drafted a constitutional amendment just like what's being discussed now.  The key reason is simple.  A law, passed in 2012, can be repealed or evaded by the Governor and Legislature 10 years from now.  A constitutional amendment binds everyone.

The constitutional amendment process remains preferable. Lots of history and personality in the split amongst the good guys.  Albany folks need to remember this isn't talk radio; the hotter the rhetoric the worse the legislative outcome.  C'mon fellas, get together.  And try the constitutional amendment first.

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