Use Independence Model When Redistricting In New York State

Make no mistake about it, the allegedly Independent Redistricting Commission approved by state voters back in 2014 is far from perfect.

Republicans’ in that nearly decade-old negotiation wrote supermajority voting rules into the redistricting process that would give them the ability to stonewall a plan the GOP didn’t agree to. Democrats are three-quarters of the way through a process to put the issue back on a ballot for the November election, proposing to relax the supermajority requirement so Democrats can control the process of drawing legislative district boundaries.

The Democrats’ move shouldn’t be surprising. To the victors go the spoils, and in this case the Democratic victors are going to find a way to draw legislative district boundaries in a way that benefits them. Republicans did it for decades when they controlled the state Senate. Democrats now want to take their turn.

This change reeks, though, in part because the Independent Redistricting Commission was never given a chance to work. It was created after the last set of district boundaries were drawn, and this year was to be its trial run. Here in New York state, the appearance of independent redistricting never even got off the ground.

That’s unfortunate. Just because it’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be. While the idea of a non-partisan commission overseeing a purely partisan activity like redistricting seems ridiculous, it is a worthy goal. Rather than reintroduce partisan politics into redistricting, the state should devise a redistricting system that is truly independent.

At a time when Americans are asking politicians in Washington, D.C., to tone down their partisan attacks, here in New York we politely continue beating the partisan drums. One-party rule is a bad idea. At least when Republicans were gerrymandering protected districts in the state Senate, Democrats knew they had the upper hand in the Assembly and for statewide office. Further shutting Republicans out of state Senate races only further marginalizes the voices of many in upstate New York and makes it more difficult to adequately question the Democratic majority.

An independent redistricting process is a worthy ideal. If Democrats in the state Legislature want to change the process, let’s use independence as our model rather than the tired old model that we’ve tried in the past.


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