January 17, 2012

What's going on with New York State redistricting?

Tompkins County may be about done with its independent redistricting process, but New York State lumbers on slowly toward new districts for the State Senate, Assembly, and Congressional seats. Basically, no one has a good idea what the final lines will look like for the New York State Assembly and Senate, or for Congress.

If the process continues as usual, through LATFOR, the Democratic Assembly will draw the Assembly lines, the Republican Senate will draw the Senate lines, and everyone will scramble over the Congressional lines. It's pretty much a classic New York parody filled with self-dealing and lobbyists, and County Legislator Mike Lane was right to call it corrupt a few months ago.

Governor Cuomo has said he'll veto redistricting that isn't independently done, but he's said it more quietly lately, a veto override is at least conceivable, and the courts may or may not want to get involved. There could be some kind of jointly appointed commission, though the head of the Assembly's work on redistricting is uninterested in such suggestions It's not clear. Maybe it'll be part of a budget deal? The timing is similar.

That's in some extra chaos right now because Republicans have claimed they should create a 63rd seat. The math and constitutional questions on that are pretty mind-boggling, and will likely go through the courts.

If you'd like more, including tools for drawing up your own maps, Common Cause's Citizens Redistricting Commission is pretty much the place to look for information on redistricting. They've posted "Reform Maps" in particular. Those could become important if these issues get resolved by a judge in an hurry to have lines in time for the elections.

To see what's at stake, you might compare their Senate map (using 62 seats, since no one seemed to guess 63 before the Republicans claimed it) with an unofficial pass at what a 63-seat NY Senate might look like if drawn to give Republicans maximum advantage. Even that definitely gerrymandered map manages to be a little less weird than the current lines, losing our current "Abraham Lincoln riding a vacuum cleaner" Senate seat.

The best way I know to describe the situation is "completely cloudy", and I have no idea how or if they'll resolve it before it's time to start the election process. We'll see!

Update: The Congressional redistricting conversation just changed a bit with Congressman Hinchey announcing his retirement. Dryden used to be in his district, then shifted to Boehlert / Arcuri / Hanna in 2002. Hinchey's current district is a strange reach from the Hudson to Ithaca. Here's more about the possibilities, and why they may scare area Republicans.

Update 2: And here's a New York Times piece that opens with the challenges of running for State Senate when you don't know what district you'll be in.

Posted by simon at January 17, 2012 5:30 AM in
Note on photos