Redistricting Reform Is In Peril... Again

Drawing districts in New York State is a dizzying political game, with accusations of political partisanship and gerrymandering thrown back and forth for years. The ball is now firmly in Governor Cuomo’s court, much to his chagrin. Today brought the Governor's most public attempt to swat the issue out of his office and back at the NYS legislature.

Today, Governor Cuomo switched his stance on the absurdly gerrymandered districts in the state. The popular Governor has replaced his oath to veto political lines with a punt back to the legislature, or as Captial reporter Josh Benson put it, “a hedgey intention to 'wait and see'…and an uncharacteristic complaint that he lacks the political wherewithal to compel the legislature to do the right thing.”

Gov. Cuomo’s new reluctance to veto a plan flies in the face of recommendations from voting rights organizations and the New York Times editorial board, which wrote,

If these politically skewed districts are approved by the Legislature as expected, Gov.Andrew Cuomo should veto them. That would give a court-appointed special master a better chance to create independent maps that might actually allow for competition in political races.

This new disheartening announcement from New York’s executive is a step backwards in what progressive optimists hoped might be a string of victories in the name of democracy. It was not long ago that Demos, the Prison Policy Initiative and other voting rights groups celebrated the LATFOR prison-based gerrymandering victory that protected the rights prisoners to be counted in their home communities, not in the districts they are held in.

Call me naïve, but just yesterday it felt like New York might be stepping in a more democratic direction with that win. Now the state is as off-track as ever, with a reopened possibility that we’ll maintain the status quo and see squid-shaped and politically-motivated districts for the foreseeable future.