In the end, Cuomo holds all the redistricting cards in a game voters don't care about

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 03:57 PM

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Capital New York's Josh Benson penned (or typed, really)a great piece up on their site today laying out the current redistricting scenario. Over the weekend Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to be showing his cards in way that validated the cynics belief that he's always been bluffing on his threat to veto the legislature's lines. As Benson points out--and to what a piece by Reid Pillifant alluded to last week--Cuomo, despite sounding like he isn't, is in fact the most important piece in this whole situation:

If Cuomo vetoes the lines proposed by the legislative task force, the master will essentially be receiving a nonbinding proposal for the new lines, and will be in a position to amend that draft heavily or even to disregard it entirely, in favor of lines deemed to be fairer.

If on the other hand Cuomo signs the legislature's lines into law, the master will more or less be bound to use those lines as a basis for the final product, with his or her mission limited to ensuring that the lines are in compliance with the letter of the law. (It is not illegal for the districts to be partisan, or nonsensical.)

Yet now Cuomo appears to be wavering, even as his surrogates, both anonymous and otherwise, push back that the Governor couldn't be further from flip-flopping. Not that it's making much of a difference to voters (despite all the reasons why it should):

So why would Cuomo go back on his promise? Who knows. Perhaps he wishes to rack up the world's biggest chit from the Senate Republicans, who would quite literally owe the continued existence of their majority to Cuomo; or maybe, as the slightly darker version of this theory goes, Cuomo wants his party to stay in the minority in the Senate, because actually he would prefer to deal with a disciplined, perpetually indebted Republican majority there than a dysfunctional, chaos-making Democratic one.

It is quite possible that the governor is merely doing the politically smart thing and leaving his options open. Maybe after all the posturing, the legislature won't go far enough in crafting something Cuomo can present to the public as an enlightened compromise, and maybe then the governor will simply lose patience and issue a veto after all, putting the whole matter at the mercy of the courts.
That would be very bad news for the incumbent line-drawers, and very good news, in the short-term, for the minority parties in either house, and for would-be challengers to any majority-party incumbents in the next decade, to say nothing of voters who would like their elected officials to be more accountable to the public.

But in softening his public position, Cuomo is unmistakably laying the groundwork for the possibility of a cop-out that he can sell as something else. Perhaps he will sign the lines with a show of great reluctance, while also announcing he has secured a promise from the legislature for a constitutional amendment to ensure an independent redistricting process in a decade.

The Times editorial board would be mad, sure. But on this issue, for whatever reason, Cuomo may be past caring.


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