Common Cause/NY Blasts Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting

For Immediate Release:


January 23, 2013

Susan Lerner, 212-691-6421

Common Cause/NY Blasts Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting

Today the New York State Senate is expected to take up an amendment proposed last year by the Governor to reform New York’s notoriously politicized redistricting process. It does no such thing. The Assembly approved the amendment last week which means that if adopted by the Senate, it will go on the ballot in 2014 as a referendum.

In response, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY released the following statement:

The public is quite clear that it expects redistricting to be a fair and objective process in which electoral lines are adjusted to reflect demographic changes in the census. Today, we are no closer to that ideal; if anything we have taken a step away from it. The proposed constitutional amendment sets up a hyper-partisan, expensive and ineffective structure for redistricting. This is a system designed to fail, the safeguard for which, is control of the maps defaulting to the Legislature. Ultimately, this is not an independent process and the voters lose.

For an example of the expected chaos the proposed amendment would cause, we need look no further than Nassau County,

The proposed structure appears to mirror, in large part, that of the Nassau County Temporary Districting Commission, which is widely regarded as a failure. That body was unable to hold joint meetings to develop a map or even to agree on a record to present to its County Legislature. Nassau’s redistricting process has resulted in extensive litigation and widespread criticism. And it has cost the tax payers dearly: $500,000. Yet, since the bi-partisan Commission could not come up with a map, the Legislature will directly draw its own map, which is exactly what the elaborate structure was supposed to prevent. Nassau’s experience is a real-life model of what should be avoided in setting up a redistricting body; yet the state amendment sets up a partisan body largely similar to the failed Nassau County model.

This is a bad deal for the voters, and represents the worst ills in government which this Governor has sought to eradicate: partisanship, inefficiency, and excess.

Amending our state constitution should not be done lightly. When it is undertaken, it should be done to achieve the stated aims of reform, not to deliberately thwart them. This proposal, unfortunately, does not satisfy that standard. New Yorkers deserve a constitutional amendment that will establish a fair redistricting process to be conducted in accordance with the appropriate objective criteria. Common Cause is committed to educating the electorate about the expected impact should this proposal be placed in our constitution.