Published in
The Empire

Reviewing the redistricting endgame

Assuming the courts don’t step in before the legislature agrees to its lines, there still remain two big hurdles to getting whatever LATFOR comes up with passed into law:

1.    The Voting Rights Act: As we’ve written about before, New York is subject to a number of provisions in the Voting Rights Act. Before any lines become law, the Department of Justice or a special Washington DC-based court has to clear the lines. The last redistricting process was during a Republican administration. Some observers expect the Obama DoJ to be a tougher sell for lines, especially if ethnic and racial minority groups make their concerns heard early.

2.    Governor Andrew Cuomo: The Governor continues to signal his intent to veto the lines produced by LATFOR (so far). Should he keep his promise, the legislature will be forced to go back to the drawing board. If the executive and legislative branches can’t come to an agreement, the courts will surely intercede.

Some observers worry that the recent Supreme Court case involving Texas’ redistricting will mean the courts will likely just accept whatever lines the legislature produced. But New York’s situation would have a crucial difference: in Texas, the lines were signed into law; here, Cuomo will have vetoed them. Without legal lines, the courts will be free to go their own way.

“The governor has so much power over this right now,” said Hofstra University law professor Eric Lane, who himself has participated in the redistricting process in the 1980s. “Once he throws the veto down, we're at a standstill."