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The Empire

Congressional plan finalized by federal judge--updated

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Courtesy of the Eastern District Court.

Federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann posted her final recommended congressional maps online late Monday. The plans show only slight changes from the original draft maps. Most notably, Mann reconfigured the Voting Rights Act-protected majority black districts in Brooklyn. Local lawmakers and community organizers were upset over the first set of maps they say unfairly divided communities that had traditionally been represented in the same district.

Mann's new maps appear to rejoin the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods with the western-most district currently represented by Congressman Ed Towns.

Participants in the federal case that kick-started the court's drawing of new congressional lines will have until Wednesday to file their objections. The three-judge panel will convene on Thursday March 15 and hold a public hearing to receive feedback on the proposal. The anticipation is the court will vote agree on lines before the start of petitioning for the congressional primary on March 20.

Meanwhile, New York's legislature has put forth maps for its own set of seats. No congressional plan has been presented by lawmakers, which may be the final sign the legislature is abdicating its constitutional responsibility to draw the state's congressional lines.

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The Empire

Redistricting battle shifts from lines to an amendment

Monday, March 12, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

It’s official: the sticking point over redistricting in Albany is no longer whether the lines will be drawn independently, nor whether they’ll be less “hyperpartisan” in their second draft, but what the accoutrement tacked on—a constitutional amendment and a pre-emptive statute with similar language just in case the legislature fails to live up to its end of the bargain—will look like.

Now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has admitted he “just lost” the battle for redistricting reform for this year’s lines, it looks like he’d like to turn all attention to the future. So now the big battle has become what a constitutional amendment, and the corresponding legislative backstop, will look like.

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The Empire

State Assembly: Our redistricting amendment is better than Gianaris'

Friday, March 02, 2012

This article has been updated.

From left, Assemb. Jack McEneny, Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s press office just released a statement on behalf of Assemblyman Jack McEneny, the Albany-based Democrat representing the Assembly’s Democratic majority in the state’s redistricting process. The statement, according to McEneny, is in response to the criticism being levied against the reported language of a constitutional amendment that appeared this morning in the Albany Times-Union. The amendment would be part of a compromise that would allow the Governor to sign a second, supposedly improved set of district lines for the state senate and assembly.

The statement appears to put daylight between what Assemblyman McEneny described in the TU article, and some of the push back coming from Senate Democrats, in particular Senator Michael Gianaris, who was the co-sponsor of a bill last year to establish an independent redistricting process in 2012:

While we share a common goal of permanently reforming New York’s redistricting process, the constitutional amendment currently being discussed by the Assembly is stronger than the Senate Minority’s proposal in several key respects. Future redistricting plans will be subjected to tough standards not contained in the plan put forth by the Senate Minority and, as well, the amendment would be accompanied by a statute implementing those changes.

According to the statement, in the event the plan drawn by the future “independent commission” was rejected by the legislature, lawmakers would “be limited to those that affect no more than two percent of the population of the district being altered, making it much harder to modify the commission’s proposals.”

The statement goes on to say the Assembly proposal would “provide crucial protections for language and for racial minorities,” as well as require a justification for district population deviations, and give greater restriction to political activities for the commission members.

The statement comes after a day of push back from lawmakers and good government activists incensed over the details of a possible constitutional amendment on redistricting.

Common Cause held a conference call earlier to discuss the status of both congressional and state redistricting efforts. The group’s executive director Susan Lerner addressed the constitutional amendment issue.

“We would just like to say we have consistently been calling for an open discussion about what should be in any constitutional amendment,” she said, according to City and State’s Laura Nahmias. “We think quite frankly it would be a scandal if massive changes to the redistricting process were introduced under cover of darkness.”

Democratic state Senator Liz Krueger issued her own statement on the state of the process saying, “The reports I have heard of a deal on a constitutional amendment make two things clear: the proposed amendment is too weak to work, and New York's voters would have to accept ten more years of hyperpartisan, racially discriminatory maps to get this too-little, too-late reform.”

And earlier today, Democratic state Senator Michael Gianaris told the Empire, “The entire point about the constitutional amendment is that we could change [the ability of the legislature to have the final say over the lines]. So to actually enshrine in the constitution that the legislature would have the final say would be regress.”

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The Empire

Federal judge lays out the rules for March 5 redistricting hearing

Friday, March 02, 2012

At the end of today, everyone who has skin in the congressional redistricting game will need to have their proposals for new lines into Judge Roanne Mann. In preparation for the hearing on Monday, March 5, Judge Mann has laid out the ground rules for those who'll present their arguments on Monday:

Given the March 12th deadline by which this Court must issue its report and recommendation on a new Congressional redistricting plan for the State of New York, as well as the number of parties and non-parties providing input into the process and expected to participate in the proceeding scheduled for Monday, it was not the Court’s intention to conduct a trial-type evidentiary hearing on March 5th.  Instead, the hearing will proceed in the manner herein described.

Each group of parties will be given up to twenty (20) minutes to present its argument to the Court.  Counsel representing parties with similar interests are encouraged to decide in advance which attorney will address a particular issue; the Court will not entertain repetitive arguments.  Each party group may reserve up to three (3) minutes of its time to present a brief response, at the conclusion of the party presentations, to the other parties’ arguments.  Such responses must be limited to correcting misstatements of fact or law, and may not include new or repetitive affirmative arguments.

Time permitting, interested non-parties who have submitted proposed plans or substantive comments and have registered by today’s deadline may be afforded up to five (5) minutes to address the Court.  Non-parties and organizations with affiliated interests are encouraged to select one representative to speak on their behalf for the allotted time.  Non-party presentations must be limited to the topic of New York State Congressional redistricting.

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The Empire

Judge orders LATFOR to hand over data used to draw maps, sans incumbent info

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the legal process federal magistrate Roanne Mann set up to get as much info as possible before she drafts congressional lines for New York.

In the midst of a massive upload of map plans from the state Assembly and Senate, as well as Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and community organizations who have drawn their own maps, the issue of taking incumbency into account in the drawing of lines was raised.

At the February 27 hearing that saw Mann charged with coming up with the schedule for drawing maps, the lawyers for the senate and assembly had asked the judge find a way to have incumbency be part of the conversation. In a follow up letter to the judge, Senate Republicans’ lawyer Michael Carvin laid out the case for “why incumbency protection is an appropriate factor for the Court to consider in drawing redistricting maps.”

“Preserving the cores of existing districts—sometimes also referred to as incumbency protection—is a well-established, traditional districting principle in New York,” Carvin writes. He goes on to cite numerous cases to show that “this Court has recognized[] preserving the cores of existing districts is ‘an important and legitimate factor’ in Congressional redistricting due to ‘the powerful role that seniority plays in the functioning of Congress.’”

It’s not a flat-out refusal to take incumbents into account when drawing new lines, but an order issued by Judge Mann today appears to signal an interest in at least seeing how things look when incumbents aren’t part of the equation. (The entire chronological history of the case can be seen online here.)

The order, issued this morning, tells LATFOR to send over the data they plug into their computer software to draw maps. But there’s a note attached: “No political or other data, including incumbent residence, shall be included with the data provided.”

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The Empire

Public battle begins over redistricting constitutional amendment

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The redistricting conversation has been focused lately on the incremental issues of the now: Cuomo’s increasingly pale veto statements, a federal court pushing forward with their own congressional maps, the state legislature failing to meet its own deadline for new maps.

But there’s also a battle of ideas happening over what a constitutional amendment—something Cuomo and others say could be part of a compromise in the current process—giving future redistricting over to  an independent process. But are all processes created equal?

The Skinning of a Redistricting Cat

Back in September we looked at what independent redistricting could look like in New York State, based on models in other states and conversations with democracy advocates. Lately there has been an op-ed back-and-forth going on between two different visions of what “an independent process” really means.

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The Empire

Federal judges move to draw NY congressional maps

Monday, February 27, 2012

From left, Assemb. Jack McEneny, Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

In Brooklyn federal district court today a three-judge panel took a decisive step towards having new congressional lines drawn by an appointed magistrate judge, and not by the legislatively-controlled LATFOR committee.

Led by Circuit Judge Reena Raggi, who spoke almost exclusively for the triumvirate, the panel cited the "utmost urgency" of having congressional lines in place for the primary petitioning period that begins on March 20. The panel of judges instructed a court-appointed federal magistrate, the Honorable Roanne Mann, to retain experts and get public feedback in order to have a proposed set of new congressional boundaries to the court by Monday, March 12.

A public hearing on the court's proposed lines would be held on March 15.

Legislative leaders have up to now been unable to agree upon and present a set of congressional maps to the public. We may get our first glimpse of what the state Assembly and Senate have in mind soon; maps from the parties in the case are due by the end of this week.

But some observers believe the legislature isn't going to give up its power to draw maps that easy.

"I think the chances are that they [the legislature] will get it together and draw the lines," said Jerry Goldfeder, a New York City-based election lawyer. "This is just an extra motivating force."

The question will be whether or not they've run out of time: even if the legislature is able to agree upon a set of maps, they must then get Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign them into law. And even then, the legislature's maps must then be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice, who has up to 60 days to review them.

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The Empire

Latino groups to Cuomo: Veto the legislative lines

Monday, February 27, 2012

In a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo late last week, LatinoJustice and the National Institute for Latino Policy called on the Governor to veto the legislative redistricting lines that were expected to come out this week.

You will be asked to approve and sign off on proposed redistricting maps in the coming days. We ask that you not adopt these proposed districts wholesale without further scrutiny...[W]e firmly believe that the entire Senate plan and parts of the Assembly plan, have been drawn in an attempt to minimize the Latino Communities' impact and potentially violate the Latino communities' ability to elect candidates of their choice.

LatinoJustice is involved in a law suit that's challenging the legislature's progress in and process for drawing new federal and state legislative lines. It helped lead to the hearing being held in Brooklyn today to determine how much a federal court will get involved in the process.

In the letter below, the groups' presidents say the proposed state legislative maps "go out of their way to draw lines that tend to split up well-settled communities and which dilute the voting power of Latinos in certain districts."
LatinoJ Cuomo Letter

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The Empire

Redistricting round-up: McEneny, Silver say no congressional lines this week

Monday, February 27, 2012

It doesn’t look like new congressional lines will be revealed any time soon.

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The Empire

CU's Dadey to Cuomo: Use the veto to get better maps in redistricting

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

In a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Citizen Union's Dick Dadey urges the Governor to use his veto threat to get better lines from the legislature and ensure fundamental reform for future redistricting.

"Citizens Union believes your veto threat provides you with valuable leverage because it poses the threat of uncertainty:  the last thing the legislature can tolerate, particularly with regard to their own districts," Dadey writes. "We respectfully request that you use your veto threat ‐ unlike any other governor before you ‐ to achieve two important goals:  secure lasting and permanent redistricting reform through statutory change and a constitutional amendment; and pursue meaningful changes to thisyear’s lines by holding direct negotiations with the legislature.  We urge you to seek districts that reflect as best as possible the criteria outlined in your program bill on redistricting.   Should this approach fail to produce needed changes to the 2012 maps and bring about lasting reform, we call on you to exercise your veto."

This call from Dadey to use the veto pen carefully essentially backs up what Cuomo told the Democrat and Chronicle late last week, when he laid out the conditions for which he would be willing to accept the lines passed by the majority parties in the state Senate and Assembly: "less hyper political" lines, and a commitment to passing both a constitutional amendment to establish an independent redistricting process as well as a law that would effectively do the same should the legislature fail to pass the constitutional amendment.

The Governor's office has pushed back strongly on the suggestion he was backing off his oft-mentioned pledge to veto lines that are drawn in a partisan way--something considered to be inevitable because the legislature is drawing them.

As YNN's Nick Reisman reports, Cuomo on Fred Dicker's show today again sounded like he was pushing back on any suggestion he's wavering in his veto threat. "If they send me these lines, these lines will be vetoed," the Governor said. But as Reisman notes, the Governor (again) is putting in qualifying language by talking about "these" lines, in other words, the current maps roundly denounced as a gerrymandered mess.

Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats are going to come out with a new batch of maps soon. They are looking to vote on and pass a set of maps as soon as March 1--that's one week from today.

When they do, it is Cuomo and Cuomo alone who will decide whether the maps become law or likely move towards the courts. It's his veto that is the deciding factor, no matter how much he tries to understate that reality. If his remarks last week, and today's letter from Citizen Union, are any indication, it looks like the Governor is prepping us for a compromise that will see less egregious but still legislatively drawn lines become the reality.

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The Empire

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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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The Empire

Voters: Wait, what's going on with redistricting?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

So full disclaimer: just because we pay a tremendous amount of attention to a subject like redistricting (and go on air to argue why folks should be paying attention), it doesn't mean we're so divorced from reality in our little news bubble that we think that issues like redistricting burn hot in the hearts of New Yorkers.

But in the event that we were forgetting that simple truth, today's Quinnipiac University poll helped correct any illusions we might have been holding.

Or, as the release on the poll puts it, "New York State voters seem to be confused or disinterested by the latest developments in the issue of legislative redistricting."

Do they ever:

  • 68 percent of voters don’t know whether or not state legislators kept their 2010 campaign promise to support an independent commission to create legislative district lines;
  • 67 percent say they heard nothing about the new district lines created by state legislators;
  • 71 percent don’t know whether or not they approve of these lines;
  • 66 percent don’t know whether or not they want the governor to veto these lines.

“Politicians watch the redistricting dance with fascination.  After all, it affects their future.   But voters can’t or won’t follow this important – but not very sexy – issue,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement.

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The Empire

Redistricting lawsuit defendents: Judge's ruling no big deal

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last night a federal judge gave a lawsuit filed by a group of voters, and supported by numerous civic and good government groups, to have the courts take over the redistricting process.

But today the defendants in the case Judge Dora Irizarry issued her opinion on last night say the move was more procedure than declaration.

"She just convened the three judge court, which everyone had agreed she needed to do," said Michael Carvin, who's working on behalf of LATFOR defendants in the case. "This is just sort of the next shoe dropping. This is no big deal."

Carvin, who put the legal heavy weight behind the creation of a 63rd Senate district, says he feels the focus in the press on Irizarry's request for the appointment of a special master to take over the redistricting process is overblown.

"Obviously that's what people are talking about, but that's a decision for the three judge court," he said. "I don't even know if it's a recommendation if you parse her sentence. She's saying that you need to consider this and obviously everybody agrees that you need to consider it."

While Irizarry agreed with the plaintiffs' concern the redistricting process is moving at a dangerously slow pace, Carvin said the next legal steps are really determined by what LATFOR ends up doing.

"We're going to take a very practical approach: Do you have time to draw lines and how probable is it that the legislature is going to enact something," he asked. "If the legislature enacts something this is all moot."

Carvin did acknowledge that, unlike the appearance given by legislators in Albany, the new district lines for congress is really the issue most pressing for the court: "The obvious point is that congress needs to go first because they're under tighter time deadlines. There's no time crunch at all for the state legislative lines."

The lawyers working on behalf of some of the plaintiffs in the case called the judge's opinion "a major step forward" in having the redistricting process get handled by a judicially-appointed special master.

A person close to the legal efforts on the plaintiff's side pushed back on the suggestion that the judge's opinion was of small significance:

Until the court is convinced that New York will have a plan that’s voted on, signed by the Governor, and approved by the justice department in time for congressional petitioning on March 20, then all bets on the legislature getting its job done are off.

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The Empire

Federal judge gives big push to redistricting lawsuit

Monday, February 13, 2012

UPDATED

A federal court in Brooklyn gave the green light to a redistricting lawsuit that could see a judge begin drawing state and congressional district lines.

US District Court Judge Dora Irizarry handed down her ruling late on Monday, asking a higher court judge to establish a three-judge panel to review the lawsuit filed by a group of New York voters. The judge also asked that a special master be appointed to "oversee and draw up a redistricting plan that is in compliance with federal and state...law."

Last month Judge Gary Sharpe, who had previously established June 26 as the date for the state's congressional primary, ruled on the calendar for this year's election cycle. The decision set March 20 as the date for candidates to begin petitioning.

In her decision, Judge Irizarry noted that no congressional lines have been presented to the public, despite the fact that potential candidates for the primary have to be ready to petition in six weeks. As the process currently stands, the legislature would need to pass the lines, Governor Andrew Cuomo would need to sign it, and the Department of Justice would have to have enough time to pre-clear the proposed lines based on the federal Voting Rights Act.

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The Empire

Listen: Redistricting in New York and why you should care

Monday, February 13, 2012

Check out the conversation we had on redistricting with hosts from WNYC. This spot is airing today.

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The Empire

Should we be freaking out about congressional lines?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

LATFOR public hearing in the Bronx. (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

[UPDATE: Judge Gary Sharpe ruled today that the Democratic proposed election calendar--see the Kellner-Aquila doc below--will be used for congressional elections. ]

The final public hearing in New York City on the draft maps drawn by LATFOR, the legislature-controlled task force responsible for redistricting, was in Queens this week. An earlier meeting in Brooklyn had reportedly brought out just a few dozen people, with the one in the Bronx appearing to be slightly better attended. The hearing in Queens, however, saw a line out the door a half an hour after the meeting started.

Inside, angry community members blasted the members of the committee for hours over what many in the room felt were maps meant to divide the ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Queens.

But the conversation was focused almost entirely on state legislative lines for Assembly and Senate. Meanwhile, the clock on the lines for Congress is quickly approaching midnight. A federal judge has set the primary date for congressional candidates up from September to June. So far, LATFOR has yet to release a congressional draft map.

Meanwhile, candidates are planning on running in districts that will look radically different than they do now—if they exist at all. And the leaders of the Assembly and Senate are sending mixed signals on where the state will lose its two mandatory congressional seats.

So should we be freaking out about congressional lines?

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The Empire

Reviewing the redistricting endgame

Thursday, February 02, 2012

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."

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The Empire

Rev. Al Sharpton Chimes In on LATFOR Grievances

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Rev. Al Sharpton (Brigid Bergin / WNYC)

By Brigid Bergin, WNYC Producer

Community leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to add their voices to the chorus of complaints about the redistricting mapsproposed by the State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.

“We were promised that there would be reform in the process of how they redrew the lines,” said Sharpton, “what we are seeing is deform rather than reform.”

Sharpton described a process marked by “backroom” dealing motivated by “self interest.”

“Why do we have to say we’ll lose a black seat in Buffalo to have an Asian seat downstate?”

Sharpton called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the proposed maps saying that the courts should decide on the lines. He also said advocates sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to review the process.

“New York is a voter rights state. It’s not just southern states that are voter rights states,” said Sharpton, “and nothing should transpire that does not have pre-clearance by the Attorney General.”

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The Empire

McEneny: Don't expect public hearings on redrawn congressional maps

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

For those that feel accustomed (or entitled) to public hearings to discuss draft redistricting maps—as are currently happening in the city—LATFOR co-chair Assemblyman Jack McEneny has some disappointing news: don’t expect the same for the congressional maps.

McEneny reportedly made the comment at the LATFOR hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday. “That’s correct,” he said when asked if he had said there likely wouldn’t be time for a set of public hearings on the congressional lines when they finally get finished.

“I’m sure there will be concerns. Right now my main concern is finishing on time, thank you Judge Sharpe,” McEneny said, referring to the federal judge who set June 26 as New York’s primary date for congress.

He also pointed out the last redistricting process a decade ago had no public hearings. That’s true. In fact, over the past 30 years there have never been public hearings over the proposed redistricting lines. That’s because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t come to an agreement. Only when the threat of a federal judge imposing lines were the two sides able—miraculously—to come to an agreement right before the deadline.

“Some decisions have to be made, they haven’t been made yet,” McEneny said about the status of line drawing process. “We have deadlines. The first deadline is to get these nine public hearings finished.

“In the meantime we haven’t drawn the congressional lines yet.”

He said that, “in an ideal world,” he hoped to have draft congressional maps “done during President Week with legal descriptions so that we could present something to the legislature for a vote when they come back from the break.”

McEneny’s talking about the week of Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 21. That would mean that the earliest the legislature could vote on lines would be their next session day, February 29.

“If things were a little different, we’d have a little negotiating room but right now the main thing is to get it done,” McEneny said.

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The Empire

Are early redistricting lawsuits too early?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

From left, Assemb. Jack McEneny, Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

Earlier on Tuesday, Democratic State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the constitutionality of Senate Republicans’ plans to create a new district in the Albany area. The plan would bring the State Senate’s total size up from 62 to 63 seats.

“The lawsuit is being filed because the majority in the New York State Senate failed to follow the constitution of the State of New York, Section 4, which…if you follow the formula strictly it would only result in 62 seats,” Dilan said before the Bronx LATFOR hearing on Tuesday. “This time around they decided needed a 63rd seat; perhaps to continue control of the New York State Senate.”

Dilan’s suit is just another salvo in a pre-emptive strike campaign by opponents of the LATFOR process. As the turbulent process moves into its final stages, these lawsuits become pieces on the board as stakeholders—legislators, non-government groups, the Governor and communities throughout New York—prepare for the redistricting end game.

The lawsuit a ruling that “they”—that is, Senate Republicans—didn’t follow their own, court-approved process for figuring out the number of Senate seats. He said the ruling could happen as soon as a week.] For an explanation of how they got to 63 seats--and why Democrats think they're wrong--check out my earlier piece.]

Dilan’s counterpart on LATFOR, Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio, said before the meeting that he had faith that their attorneys had divined the number of senate seats correctly and that the court would agree.

“The constitution of the state of New York will decide this. Not Senator Dilan. Not Senator Nozzolio. Not the Senate entirely,” Nozzolio said. “We certainly believe the analysis done by the attorneys is accurate. We believe the court will ultimately confirm that.”

The Lawsuits

As mentioned, the complaint filed by Senator Dilan in state court is asking a judge to find the Republicans “failed to apply the Senate size formula prescribed in Section 4 consistently, rationally or in good faith.”

The question facing whichever judge hears the case is whether or not the case is “ripe”—that is, if the issue in the case is fully formed enough to decide. What will likely come down to in this case is whether or not the Senate declaring its intent to create the district is enough.

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