The Districting Commission tasked with redrawing City Council lines unveiled yesterday the latest, and likely last, version of those lines. After a process fraught with alleged backroom deals and heated public hearings, the lines are a City Council vote away from being final for another decade.
Some alterations were made to satisfy the demands of civic groups and minority advocacy organizations, but, at first glance, many were not.
New York Congressman Steve Israel, who heads up the House Democrats’ campaign efforts, made an interesting pitch to NY1’s Errol Louis on Inside City Hall last Friday. He argued the most New York is now in play with the judge’s new congressional redistricting plan.
“Right in New York, as a result of the map the courts have approved, we have races all over the state that will be competitive,” he said, before ticking down a laundry list of newly competitive seats.
“I think it’s a historically terrible thing for the history of our state,” he began his interview with The Capitol Pressroom‘s Susan Arbetter.
“To the extent our governor had a chance to be a great governor, when history is written, that opportunity is gone forever,” he continued. “It’s only a question of whether maybe he can go down in history maybe as a mediocre governor.”
Earlier today, the New York State Senate Democrats asked the court currently enacting the state’s new Congressional redistricting plan to consider expanding their efforts and, at the very least, draw up their own maps for the State Senate as well.
They made two core arguments about the need for this legal action in their letter to the court.
“First, the Legislature’s plan is subject to preclearance by the Department of Justice pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a process that can take up to 60 days,” the wrote, referring to the required process of federal review for some counties in New York like the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
Professor Gerry Benjamin, an expert on the mechanisms of government at State University of New York at New Paltz, was asked by Citizens’ Committee for an Effective Constitution to take a look at Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s much-touted redistricting amendment and grade it point-by-point against what a truly independent amendment would look like.
Unsurprisingly, he found it wanting. He gave the amendment a ‘C-‘ overall on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale.
In the wee hours of the morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted out a statement touting two of the three aspects of his redistricting compromise: a constitutional amendment providing a commission to draw districts the in the future and a statue to implement the amendment as ordinary law if the Legislature doesn’t follow through with its promise to pass the amendment in the subsequent legislative session.
“Professor Persily generally dismisses the Senate Majority Defendants’ (and other parties’) concerns about ‘respecting the cores of prior districts,’ insisting such claims are merely ‘pretextual arguments for protecting incumbents,’ they wrote in their letter. “As a threshold matter, incumbency protection is a traditional redistricting principle, as Professor Persily himself has previously recognized.”
The letter further argued against placing incumbents politicians in the same districts if at all possible.
“[A]voiding incumbency pairings actually enhances the reality and appearance of judicial impartiality,” they wrote, again contending protecting sitting Representatives should be more highly prioritized in the process.