Published in
The Empire

First lawsuit filed over redistricting in New York

A high-powered New York City law firm became the first to sue the state over its slow-moving redistricting process last week. Lawyers from Willkie Farr & Gallagher file a complaint in Federal court on Thursday of last week, asking the court to intervene in the redistrict process which, according to the complaint, "threatens to throw the state's 2012 elections into a quagmire absent court intervention."

The lawsuit is the first this time around, but the decennial redistricting process usually plays out in the courts. There was some surprise that the suit has come this earlier. LATFOR, the legislative committee responsible for drawing new lines, hasn't agreed upon what those will look like. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he'll veto lines that aren't drawn in an independent, non-partisan manner.

But the suit seeks to circumvent the whole process. The defendants are asking the court to appoint a special master to intervene now to complete the entire redistricting process in time for the state to meet its obligations, like having lines in place in time for an earlier-than-normal primary date, for the 2012 elections--something advocates fear LATFOR and the Governor will fail to meet.

"[The lawsuit] goes to the rising frustration that voters have over the lack of movement on creating an independent commission on these lines," said Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizen Union. His organization today is releasing a report that argues that there's still time for an independent drawing of lines. The report calls on the Governor to bring the legislature back for a special session to create an independent commission to take over the redistricting process from LATFOR.

"Legislators must honor their word and keep their commitments by returning to Albany in a special legislative session to finally end partisan gerrymandering and enact redistricting reform," the report advises. "New Yorkers have already waited for many decades for redistricting reform. The fulfillment of that promise cannot wait another ten years."

Check out Citizens Union's report after the jump.