Fast Fact About 2012 Redistricting Cuomo Amendment
Criterion I: It must be provided for in the state constitution, placing redistricting beyond the reach of change by the ordinary state legislative process.
· Grade = C-
An amendment is a good idea only if it results in a redistricting process that is truly independent.
This entrenches a partisan process in the constitution, in the guise of it being “independent,” makes a bad situation worse, by placing it beyond the reach of ordinary politics for the foreseeable future. Why? It takes real reform off the table, by giving the legislature a plausible answer to calls for real reform: Been there, done that.”
Criterion II: Decision on districting should default to the state high court, if the commission is not constituted or fails to act in a timely manner
· Grade = F
The commission process defaults to the legislature.
The proposed amendment requires the legislature to act up or down on commission recommendations. If it fails to act positively, or if the governor vetoes a redistricting plan that the legislature approves, after two iterations the matter goes back to the legislature for action.
That is, the design of the commission and the rules entrenched for it in the constitution, makes deadlock is likely. And if there is deadlock, the legislature makes its own districts. As Yogi would say: Déjà vu all over again.
And if districting default to the state Supreme Court, the amendment gives the court a deadline, to be sure that the legislature will have time to have the final word.
Criterion III: Criteria should be established in the state constitution for redistricting in order of priority.
· Grade = F
Here we need to be attentive what the amendment does not do. In does not replace the current state constitutional provision on districting with an entirely new provision, as it should. It does not take out dated language –
Why do we need to keep constitutional references based upon 1930 federal census as a starting point?
It leaves in place provisions that have no force: Why are we still referencing counties as Senate district building blocks in the constitution, even though at the same time we are on the verge of approving Senate districts that systematically dismember counties to meet federal districting standards. It does not remove 19th century provisions used to entrench partisan advantage:
Why, if we are reforming, will we still using 1894 county boundaries to determine the size of the State Senate.
All of this is an invitation to confusion, mischief, and litigation.
IV– 4: Use of date reflecting or based upon partisan data must be excluded
· Grade = D
There is no constitutional bar in the amendment to the use of partisan data in redistricting, nor is there an affirmative commitment to redistrict to maximize the competitiveness of elections. Rather the amendment speaks of designing districts so as to “not…discourage competition” nor “favor or disfavor incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” Yet at the same time it places in the constitution a directive to the new to commission consider “the maintenance of the cores of existing districts” along with existing subdivision, constitutionalizing an incumbent protection criterion for districting.
V-5: A sufficiency of trained professional staff and necessary technological resources must be assured
· Grade = C
The constitutional change provides for a munificence of staff and resources for redistricting, in fact far more than needed. This is because the bi-still-partisan approach the commission’s formation extends to staffing. Essentially, the proposed constitutional amendment will give a constitutional basis to the parallel Republican and Democrat manner in which the current Legislative Task for on Demographic Research and Redistricting (LATFOR) is now staffed. That is, the drive for fiscal austerity notwithstanding, when it comes to redistricting New York will employ two persons for every job. We have experience with this. Our constitution now requires bi-partisan election administration, ostensibly to assure fairness and neutrality. It does neither.
Criterion VI: Commission decisions on districts must be final when filed with the Secretary of State by it.
· Grade = F
Under the amendment, the legislature retains final say for redistricting.
VII-2: Observance of the integrity of the state’s regions (defined by its natural and built environment),
· Grade = F
Here a real opportunity is missed. The proposed amendment continues references to counties, towns and cities, blocks and borders, the boundaries of which are all rooted in the 19th century. Modern realities are regional; this is recognized, for example, in state economic development policy. Regional categories used for districting would build legislators collaborative attentiveness to regional agendas. Community interests should be explicitly attended to, and honored. Honoring municipal boundaries and borders should be formally recognized as secondary considerations, as this often must be done to serve other higher priority values.
Criterion VIII: It must be done by a commission of moderate size (5 to 13 members) put in place by multiple appointing authorities, but dominated by no appointing authority or political party
· Grade = C
The proposed commission is within the desirable size range and there are multiple appointing authorities, with two members each selected by the majority and minority conferences of the two major parties in the legislature. The remaining two, neither of whom may be enrolled in one of these parties (but who may be closely allied third part