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The Empire

Pre-gaming the remaining redistricting process

Friday, November 04, 2011

This week marked the end of the first round of meetings of LATFOR, the joint legislative committee responsible for drawing New York’s political lines. More than 400 people from across the state testified, providing hundreds of hours of comments for legislators to take into account.

So now what?

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The Empire

Check that: LATFOR meeting on the 18th back on

Thursday, November 03, 2011

[Sorry Liz!]

Man, I think the LATFOR guys need to get on the same page. I'm told now that the meeting to decided prisoner reapportionment has been moved BACK to Friday the 18th in Albany. Sorry for the confusion.

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The Empire

LATFOR holds final meeting before line drawing begins

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Colby Hamilton / WNYC

12:07 pm

The committee is going to meet on Friday, November 18, at 1:30 pm in Albany. At that point, the issues of prisoner reallocation are set to be decided, as well as the calendar for the second round of hearings.

The court's decision on the state's primary date should be decided on November 17, which will certainly play into the meeting. Specifically, if the primary date is moved up, as anticipated, it will compact the next round of hearings to review the maps.

11:55 am

"This does not end. this is only half-time," Nozzolio said, ending public comment section. The committee is going to meet now, and discussing issues.

Now the Senate and Assembly need to draw maps. More than one conversation I've had indicated that Senate Republicans have their maps drawn--but don't expect to see anything until the prisoner reallocation case is decided early next month.

I'll following up with a piece on where things stand later. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at chamilton @ wnyc.org.

11:50 am

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey is the final speaker today.

11:20 am

Nozzolio and McEneny have, at other meetings and in other reports, bristled at the idea that independent redistricting would be some sort of magic bullet. I've written here that, indeed, it's not.

A local Democratic Party leader, sitting next to his Republican counterpart, chastised the committee for not giving up the line drawing to an independent commission, which is heavily supported in the polls.

McEneny was--and has been--most forceful in rejecting the idea that there's such a thing as an independent redistricting process. He noted that most independent commissions are appointed by legislators, which makes the idea that the commission is truly independent a sham.

Case in point, noted McEneny: Arizona's independent redistricting chair was impeached yesterday over concerns over the way districts were drawn.

McEneny, who has chaffed at the Governor's veto comments, said it was irresponsible for the Governor to suggest he'd veto districts before he's seen the maps.

"Do you think its a good thing when a chief exec ... says that he's going to veto a piece of leg before he's read it," McEneny asked. "That's not good government."

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The Empire

LATFOR meets in Nassau County with many issues still outstanding

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

This morning the committee in charge of drawing political lines is meeting for the second-to-last time out in Nassau County. LATFOR’s Old Westbury meeting is giving the public another chance to influence the process. But there are major outstanding issues that will certainly be brought up, if not fully addressed:

Prisoner reallocation

As we’ve reported, the Senate Republicans are being accused of dragging their feet in complying with a law that would have tens of thousands of mostly upstate prisoners counted back in mostly downstate districts. Assembly Democrats say they’ve already done the math—all they need is the Senate to approve. And the committee’s Senate Republican co-chair Michael Nozzolio has said his side is reviewing. There’s a chance a major announcement on the issue could come today.

Cuomo’s veto threat

Yesterday the Governor made a number of statements regarding his veto threat. By the end it seemed (mostly) apparent that he remains committed to nixing whatever lines the legislators draw. But the Democratic Assembly co-chair John McEneny has told the governor he should see what the committee comes up with first. The problem, of course, is that there’s a zero-sum game being played with Senate Republicans—if they draw “nonpartisan” lines, most observers see a likely Democratic majority in 2013. There are certainly conversations happening behind the scene. To what degree the Governor is pressuring the Senate Republicans, with whom he has a good working relationship, is unknown. The actions and words of the committee members may give a clue.

Communities of interest

Maybe more than anywhere else in the state, Nassau County is a hotbed of discontent for district lines. The county’s Democratic Party won a huge court victory recently over Republican attempts at drawing them out of the majority. And a sitting lawsuit in Federal court over Voting Rights Act violations could, eventually, mean totally new lines. Civil rights and good government groups will make their final arguments before the committee draws linesin support of districts that take racial and ethnic communities more into account.

In all things redistricting, the key issue is time. With primary dates likely coming sooner, getting lines drawn and approved in time is on the minds of everyone involved. If the Governor remains committed to vetoing lines, the whole process will end up in court with even more uncertainty for, in the Governor’s words, “chaos” in the final product. The degree to which avoiding mayhem creeps into the committee members’ comments will be something to watch for.

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The Empire

Governor Cuomo: 'I will veto the lines'

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

Governor Andrew Cuomo is stating in no uncertain terms that he intends to veto the redistricting lines now being devised by a joint legislative commission. The governor said he will not endorse the new district lines currently being drawn by a joint legislative commission.

“My position is I will veto the lines that are drawn. I believe it should be done by an independent commission," Cuomo said.

The governor acknowledges that a veto would be “chaotic”, and says the legislature should “seriously consider” joining him to create an independent commission.

The governor says he has no plans, though, to call the legislature back before January unless there’s agreement on a structure for the commission. But the governor says time is getting short.

“The clock is ticking," said Cuomo.

The governor also said he doubts the legislature has the votes to override a veto on redistricting.

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The Empire

New York voters want independent redistricting: Quinnipiac

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More than three-quarters of New York voters polled in a new Quinnipiac University survey say they want an independent commission, with little to no legislative input, to draw new political lines. According to the poll, 48 percent said they wanted a completely independent commission drawing lines, while 28 percent said one with some legislative input was prefered.

A plurality of those polled--45 percent--said Governor Andrew Cuomo should make good on his promise of vetoing lines drawn by state legislators. Nearly a quarter of respondents weren't sure.

Interestingly support for the veto has been falling from a 49 percent high back in August.

In terms of how lines should be drawn, 53 percent said they want districts to be drawn without taking the incumbent into account. The only group polled that disagreed? African Americans, who, by a plurality of 47 percent, felt lines should be drawn to protect incumbents.

When it comes to drawing districts that take race and ethnicity into account--something we've been writing about--those polled were vehemently against the idea, with 72 percent of respondents saying districts shouldn't be based on racial or ethnic requirements. Among black voters, a majority--50 percent--agreed.

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The Empire

The Voting Rights Act and redistricting in New York

Friday, October 21, 2011

President Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law (The US Library of Congress / Warren K. Leffler)

Last week we tried a thought experiment on the Empire. Following up on our reporting on ethnic and racial minority groups’ efforts during the redistricting process to have lines drawn that better served “communities of interest” (i.e. racial and ethnic groups), we took up one of the ideas floating around. Is it possible to create a Congressional district in Queens that was at least 40 percent Asian?

The short answer was, yes—see below.

But, it turns out, just because it’s possible to draw a 40 percent Asian district doesn’t mean it’s legal, if even likely, thanks in part to the long shadow cast by the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.

But isn’t the VRA (that’s the cool way to refer to it) all about helping minority groups, like, vote?

It is. But it’s more than that. Let’s take a step back to review what the VRA is, how it impacts and affects us here in New York, specifically during the redistricting process. Then we’ll get to why our 40 percent Asian district in Queens would never fly.

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The Empire

Nozzolio defends progress on prisoner placement, Jeffries says Senate majority is 'stonewalling'

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

I caught up with Senator Michael Nozzolio yesterday, after I hadpublished my piece on LATFOR’s progress with prisoner reallocation. Nozzolio is, of course, the co-chair of the committee, and the Senate Republican Majority’s representative. In the piece I wrote about the Democratically-controlled Assembly’s work to follow the current law that would count predominately upstate prisoners back in the predominately downstate communities for the purposes of redistricting.

Senator Nozzolio sent a letter to LATFOR at the end of last month instructing it to “immediately begin geocoding” the prisoner data. This, understandable, struck some on the Assembly side as odd, considering they’d already done the work and submitted it to LATFOR. Nozzolio made no mention of their work in his letter. He did, however, acknowledge receiving it when asked yesterday, saying the Assembly work deserved “great praise.”

“They did a terrific job,” Nozzolio said before making a clarifying statement: “They [the LATFOR staff] had a responsibility to just not accept [what the Assembly submitted] at total face value without scrutinizing the information.”

Currently, the senator said, LATFOR’s staff of cartographers and “census professionals” are analyzing what the Assembly staff did to see if it passes muster. So far, Nozzolio said, things were looking good.

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The Empire

Is a 40 percent Asian Congressional district in Queens possible?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One of the main issues being discussed during redistricting is providing communities of interest--often meaning, in short hand, racial and ethnic groups--with political boundaries that give these under-served groups greater influence over who represents them.

Last week a coalition of social justice groups released draft maps for the state legislature seats here in the city. Asian and Latino-majority districts were carved out for both the Assembly and State Senate, while existing African American districts were kept intact. Today Common Cause, who has been pushing this issue, has an op-ed in El Diario on the need for more majority Latino districts.

"Where the lines are drawn have the power to influence whether a particular neighborhood or community will be able to elect the representative of their choice," Susan Lerner, the group's executive director, wrote in the English version. "Communities that are divided among several districts – as neighborhoods with large numbers of Latinos have been in current and previous district maps - find it harder to gather the voting strength to make a difference at the polls."

At the Congressional level there have been pushes to create both a Latino--predominately Dominican--Congressional district in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. There has also been speculation that a 40 percent Asian district could be created in Queens.

We decided to see if that was possible. John Keefe, our map wizard at WNYC, dug through census data to carve out what would be a 40.3 percent Asian district.

A few things. First, race can't be the only thing used to create a political map, per Federal rules. This was the specific thing we were looking to do, and did our best to keep the district as condensed as possible. Still, as you can see, it's not the most visually pleasing map. Other groups working on maps they plan to submit to LATFOR, the legislative group drawing the lines, say it's possible to create a 40 percent Asian district that is more tightly constructed.

But what the map does illustrate is that it's possible to create such a district. More importantly, the Asian community in Queens is currently having their political potency spread over four different Congressional districts.

Steve Choi, executive director of MinKwon--an Asian American community group located in Flushing, Queens--took a look at the map. His group is creating their own, and he was particularly concerned about the push into Jackson Heights and Elmhurst area because of the Latino population there that would itself be diluted if only the Asian population was considered. He said they're working to create a unity map with other organizations to help preserve political strength across the various ethnic and racial communities.

Still, the exercise helped prove Choi and other activists' point. "The basic concept is that you can have a [Congressional] district that is 40 percent Asian American in Queens," he said.

The long-time exclusion of Asians in the political process has driven Choi and others to use this opportunity to push for better districts. "I don't think it's a stretch to say we have historically been disenfranchised just as many other minority communities in the state have been," he said.

While LATFOR hasn't been, in Choi's mind, particularly embracing of the push to create more Asian districts--he said the committee has said it is focusing on "the current political realities"--he feels the time is right for political lines to be drawn with his community in mind.

"It's realistic, it's possible, and its necessary to draw these districts in a way that's going to include our influence," he said, noting that he and other groups are keeping all options on the table--including litigation--to make that happen.

Next up: we'll be looking at the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn and what it will need to take to keep the Federally protected African American population in the district at the levels it what was in 2000, despite major demographic shifts over the last decade.

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The Empire

Despite assurances, Senate Republicans show little movement on prisoner reallocation

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Senator Nozzolio at the most recent LATFOR meeting on Staten Island. (Courtesy of LATFOR)

Last week,a judge heard oral arguments on whether a law requiring New York State prisoners to be counted where they lived prior to being incarcerated for the purposes of redistricting should be upheld. Senate Republicans, who brought the suit, could really use a ruling against the law. Tens of thousands of upstate prisoners have helped boost predominantly rural areas population numbers. The effect has been more upstate seats, held mostly by Republicans.

But until a ruling is handed by the judge in the case—which could be as least as two months from now—LATFOR is bound by the law to draw lines that count prisoners in their communities. All those involved say they’re committed to following the law. That includes Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio, who, in a September 30 letter to the other members of the committee, said LATFOR should “immediately begin” the technical process of correctly identifying which prisoners should be counted where.

The thing is that Nozzolio’s colleagues in the State Assembly, according to documents, have already finished the process, and have submitted the geocoded prisoner database to the LATFOR committee. The Senate Republicans have known their Assembly colleagues have been working on complying with the law since at least the August 10 LATFOR meeting in White Plains, when a representative for the Assembly discussed where they were at in the process with Nozzolio.

A few weeks later they finished, producing documents that detail how they were able to identify 70 percent of prisoners out of the 58,000 in the state could be counted. The other 30 percent were either out-of-state prisoners, Federally incarcerated, or had invalid address for whatever reason.

That was the Friday before Labor Day. Weeks later Nozzolio issued his letter without a mention of the work done by the Assembly. In fact, looking at the letter, it could be read to suggest the Senator is calling for the process to start all over again.

But, as people testifying at LATFOR meetings have noted, the entire process is under both a compressed time frame and a tremendous amount of uncertainty. There’s the Federally mandated—and currently being litigated—requirement that New York move its primary date up in time for overseas service members to mail back ballots. When you add the promised veto by Governor Cuomo, the potential law suits, the time needed before deadlines for candidates to get on the ballot, and a picture of chaos begins to emerge.

With all this uncertainty it’s interesting that Nozzolio and the Senate Republicans—who have the most to lose from prisoner reapportionment—are saying they’ll conform to the law, but in practice aren’t taking the easy road. There doesn’t seem to be any actions accompanying Nozzolio’s letter from last month. A key member of LATFOR wasn’t present at the last public hearing, meaning any discussion about the reallocation process won’t happen until—at the earliest—at the October 27 meeting in Old Westbury.

I reached out to Nozzolio’s office a bit ago to find out why the Senator didn’t mention the work done by Assembly Democrats and to find out what, exactly, would impede his colleagues in the Senate from accepting their methodology. I’ll post their response.

After the jump are the Assembly's documents describing the process they used for reallocating prisoners.

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The Empire

Civil rights advocates propose their own redistricting maps

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

As we've noted before, the redistricting process is more than simply Democrats and Republicans carving out the most advantageous districts for themselves. For communities--especially ones that have historically been under served--this once-a-decade process provides an opportunity to push for political boundaries that take their interests into account.

This week a coalition of minority civil rights and social justice groups made a direct appeal for those interests. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, LatinoJustice and others have come out with their own maps for New York State Assembly and Senate districts. The commission in charge of drawing the lines, LATFOR, has put out a call for maps previously.

These "communities of interest" maps stuck to the basic redistricting rules--no more than a plus or minus five percent population variance, conforming to the Federal Civil Rights Act rules on protected minority communities (duh), while trying to create districts in New York City that, in their words, "reflects [the city's] changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans."

The new maps, in essence, boost the number of minority majority districts. Specifically:

  • Increasing the number of majority Asian American Assembly districts from one to four--three in Queens and one in Brooklyn.
  • Creating a majority Asian American Senate district out in Flushing, and increasing the percentages of Asians in two other districts. Currently there are no majority Asian American Senate districts in the city.
  • Going from two to five majority Latino Assembly districts, with two districts being created in northern Manhattan and one out in Queens.
  • In the Senate, there would be two additional Latino majority districts--on centered in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, and a redrawn district in the Bronx.
  • Majority African American districts throughout the city have been preserved.

The new maps are below.

According to AALDEF's executive director Margaret Fung, the maps have been submitted to the LATFOR committee. She said the committee was expected to present its first draft map in early November, with a new round of public comment after. After that the process often devolves into legal limbo, as the Department of Justice has to review and clear the lines, and lawsuits are filed by groups who felt the process violated their rights.

It's through that lens these maps can be partially viewed.

"If for some reason the legislature does not adopt a map that protects the voting rights of communities of color, we would obviously have to consider taking legal action," Fung said.

This isn't to say LATFOR won't take the maps into account. In fact, it could make their lives a lot easier. Of course, there is one group who will likely not be pleased by the maps: the incumbents who could see radically different voters under these new lines. All of the districts were drawn, as they say, "incumbent blind."

Unity Map Packet (3)

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The Empire

State's second highest court hears arguments in prisoner redistricting case

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The New York Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the lawsuit to overturn a law passed by the 2010 Democratic legislative majority that would count prison inmates in the communities they are from, instead of in the towns and counties where they're incarcerated.

The lawsuit was brought by six Senate Republicans--many of whom would be affected by the law--who are claiming, among other things, that the prisoners must be counted where the US Census counts them (in predominately upstate prisons).

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, as well as lawyers for NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Brennan Center for Justice, argued in favor of the law, saying that prisoners are counted back in their pre-incarceration communities for other official tallies and political districts should be no different. Dale Ho, the lawyer representing the NAACP LDF, said he felt confident the judge understood their perspective.

"The judge had some questions about whether or not it was rational to count prisoners as continuing residents in their home communities," Ho said. "The point that we tried to make clear to him--and I think he understood this--is that prisoners are treated as continuing residents of their home communities for virtually ever legal puprose."

That would include, Ho said, things like court jurisdiction in their cases or family law, as well as voting rights. "Some incarcerated individuals retain their voting rights," Ho noted. "They vote not at the address where the prison facility is located. They vote by absentee ballot in their home communities."

The Senate Republican attorney David Lewis was not available for comment, but Senate staffer, who had spoken with Lewis, said the judge, Eugene Devine, did indeed have questions for the defense, interrupting their explanations to ask clarifying questions. The Republican source said the senate plaintiffs were taking this as a good sign, suggesting the judge might have found the reasoning suspect.

Devine has 60 days to render a decision. In the meantime, the redistricting process continues. The Senate Republicans representative on the commission responsible for redistricting, Senator Michael Nozzolio, has said LATFOR will follow the law as it stands.

Brenda Wright, director for Demos--one of the groups supporting the law--said she hoped LATFOR will honor that pledge.

"We certainly hope the judge will issue a decision to dismiss the legal challenge that's been filed so the process can unfold as its intend to," Wright said. "We presume and we hope that LATFOR will complete the process of identifiying the home addresses [for prisoners] to the greatest extent possible."

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The Empire

Beyond red and blue: Redistricting and the deeper fight for 'nonpartisan' lines

Monday, October 03, 2011

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right, at the Manhattan LATFOR meeting earlier this month. (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

Depending on where you stand, the decennial redistricting process can be synonymous with high-stakes political gamesmanship, craven partisan manipulation, or the most boring of insider political baseball. Regardless of which version you favor, it's usually cast through the two-toned prism of Republican versus Democratic interests battling it out for control of political turf.

But that blue or red-hued view often overlooks the regional and demographic dimensions of redistricting. For starters, there are significant differences between the interests of upstate and downstate New York that go beyond just the typical partisan split.

“Downstate, the focus can sometimes shift to…a demographic point of view," said Ryan Moses, former New York State Republican Party executive director and currently partner with the Albany-based political consulting firm Capitol Public Strategies. “Which is a little different from upstate, where the population is less diverse, but just more focused on making sure it [redistricting] makes more sense geographically."

Typically the divide is along partisan lines, with upstate, often Republican-leaning areas more concerned with the way towns and counties are divided, and downstate, often Democratic-leaning districts taking racially and ethnically-based “communities of interests” into account. But the partisanship, says Moses, is only part of the political picture.

“There's politics at play there,” he said. “Maybe not Republican-Democrat politics, but certainly ethnic politics, which, in New York, as you know, is a big factor."

Downstate racial and ethnic interests are hoping to become even bigger factors in the redistricting process. In a sense, this is a one-shot process: political lines are being drawn for the next ten years, and this is a singular opportunity to get what they see as their rightful slice of the political pie. For them, the partisanship is secondary, which puts them directly in the path of the traditional redistricting process.

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Using the "C" word, Cuomo softens his position on redistricting

Friday, September 30, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capitol Bureau Chief

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

Governor Andrew Cuomo floated a possible alternative to his veto threat today, saying there may be room for a “compromise” in the congressional and legislative lines being drawn by Democrats and Republicans.

The governor has said for months that he would veto new redistricting lines that are not drawn in an independent, non-partisan manner. Despite that threat, the legislature has gone ahead with its traditional bipartisan task force that draws up new political boundaries every ten years.

Now, the governor says that, while the legislature’s process to redraw the lines is “flawed by design”, perhaps an agreement could be reached to avert the veto.

“To the extent that there is a situation where people would want to compromise, fine,” said Cuomo. “And I think there are conversations that are going on now.”

The veto option would plunge the redistricting process into the courts, a scenario Cuomo says could cause “chaos and confusion." But he says he won’t go back on his pledge, and will not accept gerrymandered districts.

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The Empire

Redistricting co-chair says lines ready as early as October, as Cuomo reaffirms veto threat

Friday, September 23, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

Governor Cuomo says he’s not changing his position on a threat to veto any legislative and congressional redistricting lines now drawn by an independent commission, though the co-chair of a legislative commission on redistricting remains skeptical that Cuomo will follow through.

Legislative Redistricting Task Force Co-Chair Assemblyman Jack McEneny says he doesn’t believe that Governor Andrew Cuomo will follow through on a threat to veto the legislature’s efforts to redraw legislative and congressional districts.

“I think for any chief executive to say he’s going to veto a bill that’s been legally put together before he’s read the bill is a very bad precedent,” McEneny said.

McEneny says he thinks Cuomo’s stance has been softening in recent weeks, but the governor says his position remains the same.

“I believe independent redistricting is a necessity,” said Cuomo. “I believe it’s time has come.”

The governor says he’s not inclined, however, to call the legislature back to the Capitol for a special session on redistricting reform. McEneny says the task force could present the proposed new lines as early as October.

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The Empire

Good gov groups split on redistricting as LATFOR comes to Manhattan

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Colby Hamilton / WNYC

Ed Koch, left, with Dick Dadey at the LATFOR hearing

The state legislature’s redistricting task force is holding public meetings this week in New York City. Today they were in Manhattan hearing testimony from elected officials, good government groups, and any normal people who were inspired to take a day off of work to attend the hearing.

Oh, and Ed Koch.

The former mayor, fresh off his party-crossing coup in the 9th Congressional District, came to shakedown the bicameral committee. He was joined by Dick Dadey, the head of the nonpartisan good government group Citizens Union, and former parks commissioner and founder of NY Civic, Henry Stern.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research—known awkwardly as LATFOR—has been holding meetings around the state to get the public’s feedback on how the decennial process of redrawing the state’s legislative districts should go. Koch and his good government cohorts have been pushing for an independent redistricting plan for over a year.

The New York State legislature was unable to put together a plan before the end of the last session, and so the traditional process—the politicians in the legislature whose districts are being redrawn controlling the process—has begun. This hasn’t made Ed Koch particularly happy.

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New York has many examples--good and bad--of what redistricting could look like

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Every ten years New York goes through a process of redrawing its state legislative and congressional boundaries. The mutated district gerrymandering and political cynicism that comes out of this process have led to calls for change.  A coalition of good government groups, former and current elected officials, and concerned citizens have pushed for an independent process for creating new districts. Get politicians out of the way, the thinking goes, and you’ll have districts that better reflect—and serve—New Yorkers.

The public is behind the idea, according to a recent poll showing 50 percent of voters supporting a redistricting commission independent of the state legislature. But what does independent redistricting actually look like?

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The Empire

Cuomo rating soars, as voters voice support for indy redistricting

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Governor Andrew Cuomo's approval ratings remain high, buoyed by a favorable response to his handling of the recent hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

Voters gave Cuomo an 86 percent approval rating for his handling of the Irene and Lee storms. His overall approval is at 66 percent, which Quinnipiac notes is "the highest score for any governor in states surveyed by Quinnipiac University and among the highest for any New York governor[.]"

“New York’s love affair with Gov. Andrew Cuomo persists, perhaps helped along by Irene and Lee,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “Yes, we like him. Yes, we like his policies. Yes, we think he did a good job on the tropical storms. Yes, he’s dominating the legislature. Maybe we should ask about his Queens accent.”

Voters are also telling Cuomo they want independent redistricting, according to the poll. Of those polled, 50 percent say they want an independent commission to redraw political boundaries. But how's this for low expectations: even more--55 percent--do not believe the governor or the state legislature will keep their promises made during the 2010 elections to use an independent redistricting process.

“New Yorkers don’t want the State Legislature to draw the district lines that decide where they and members of Congress will get elected. Half prefer an independent commission. Some think there should be some legislative say,” Carroll said. “But most voters don’t believe that New York’s political leaders will keep their word.

“We chose a provocative word deliberately and almost half of the voters say they’d feel ‘betrayed’ if elected officials don’t change the districting system.”

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The Empire

State Senate Dems: Creating a new district is illegal

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pushing back on reported Republican attempts to create a new seat in the New York State Senate, Senate Democrats are rebutting the idea, calling the move illegal under the law.

"What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created. We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power," Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the Senate Democrats, said in a statement. "They are playing a dangerous game with the state constitution and the redistricting process."

The Dems are arguing the state's constitution explicitly states how to count the number of senate districts and that, however you count it, the state's population dictates 62 districts.

The Republicans, however, are vehemently denying any such plan exists. Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate Republicans, has called the suggestion "pure speculation."

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The Empire

What does a Turner win mean for the future of NY-9?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NY-9: Doomed to extinction? (Courtesy of LATFOR.)

Even before Bob Turner’s upset victory last night, a lot was made about the possibility that the 9th Congressional District might cease to exist soon.

But why, exactly? On a practical level, New York State is going to lose representation in Congress. We grew slower in comparison to other parts of the country over the last ten years, according to the US Census. Since the set number of seats in the House of Representatives are divvied up proportionally among the states based on population, New York is going to get two less seats come 2012.

This process happens every ten years, and in the past there has been an agreement between the Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature, which is responsible for drawing the political lines for all New York political districts. Since the Democrats control the Assembly, and the Republicans control the Senate, when they get together to carve up the state, each side would loses a seat. As the Democrats are strong downstate, they’d likely sacrifice a seat here and vice versa for the Republicans upstate.

It’s an interesting arrangement, as the Federal elected representatives have to lobby their colleagues in the state legislature. Generally speaking, seniority and political influence rule the process, with junior and weaker members more likely to be redistricted out of a job.

“These are political decisions and the lines are drawn in regards to political balance,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz. “You’re not dealing with math here.”

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