February 27, 2012

"We need voters in charge, not political patroons."

Somehow the Ithaca Journal managed to publish a letter from me last week without my noticing its appearance:

In a representative democracy, voters are supposed to choose their legislators. In New York, the legislators instead choose who gets to vote for them.

This corrupt system has been popular in the cesspool we call a state legislature for the last 40 years. The Republican-dominated Senate draws lines that favor Republicans, the Democrat- dominated Assembly draws lines that favor Democrats, and the gerrymander also provides a convenient incumbent protection plan, at least to those who curried favor with the right leaders.

New York and Tompkins County spent a lot of time evaluating voting machines a few years ago, working to reassure voters that their votes would be counted. How much does it matter, though, if the fix is already built into the maps?

It's possible that with these grotesque maps, the legislators have overstepped the bounds of reason so severely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will actually use his promised veto pen. It's also possible that these atrocious maps are a deliberately extreme negotiating position, part of the Albany dance of letting everyone pretend they improved an idea. Or not.

New York's democracy has never been particularly vibrant, but this is a new low. We need voters in charge, not political patroons.

Simon St. Laurent
Town of Dryden

I wrote that a month ago and they published it a week ago (the Cortland Standard published it earlier). Redistricting, though, remains in the same unfinished but corrupt haze it was in then. The strangest complications seem to revolve around Charlie Rangel's Harlem district, but none of it looks good. At this point I'm hoping there's a way for the courts to say enough and just do something even vaguely sane.

Update: Here's a piece on the courts gearing up.

Posted by simon at February 27, 2012 12:20 PM in
Note on photos