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New York Redistricting Should Be Non-Partisan, Not Bi-Partisan

In New York State, progressives' worst fears about redistricting have been realized. Last night the state legislature released a proposed constitutional amendment to "fix" redistricting in the state.

This amendment was supposedly created by the legislature to fix the brazenly partisan redistricting process in New York State. But the proposed language is, in the end, mostly toothless. Here are the disappointing highlights, as reported this morning by The New York Observer's Colin Campbell:

  • A new commission will be created to create the proposed maps. This commission will be bi-partisan, rather than independent (a disappointment for progressive and minority advocates).
  • The state legislature still gets the final say over these maps. 
  • The bi-partisan appointees will get to choose the two registered Independents to join them on the commission.
  • The new commission would undo progress made to end prison-based gerrymandering; no one will be responsible for enforcing the laws protecting the representation of incarcerated persons. The amendment abolishes LATFOR, the task force responsible for ensuring fairer counting of prison populations, and does not directly require the new commission to assume those duties.  
  • The amendment does not address the issue of districts that are underpopulated/overpopulated of districts that are drawn to keep one party in power.

To add insult to injury, this highly flawed amendment would take effect in 2022 (my co-worker pointed out that he had never heard that year said out loud before…it's that far from now).

What New York needs is a non-partisan commission to draw the lines. Districts should have the same number of people. The commission should bring in census experts to understand what it means to create a district that is focused on electing a candidate that represents a minority. 

The experts and proposals are out there. It's possible to find non-partisan experts to serve on the commission. The public is behind a fair process, in so much as they understand and care about the issue (it's pretty wonky, you can't blame them). Prisoners can be counted fairly.

This amendment is a scapegoat that offers little to no real reform. Being that it was only released last night, it's too early to say what the likelihood is that it will be the "reform" promised by many legislators.

Here's hoping it's not.