EDITORIAL: Who’s afraid of redistricting?

IT’S LIKE A WONDER DRUG FOR politicians and the press. Take this pill and it will raise your blood pressure and distract you from other more productive work. It’s called redistricting.

There’s a lot it going around right now. It happens every decade ahead of the first election following the national census. Here’s a quick review. The first step is what’s called apportionment. That’s when census determines how many people live in this country and how members each state will send to the 435-member House of Representatives. For example, Texas has a lot more people since the last census so it will gain 2 new seats in Congress. New York didn’t grow as much as big states like Texas, so we’re losing a representative.

The way states adjust for losing seats in the House is by redrawing congressional district boundaries to create fewer districts. And the same process is used to redraw the districts in the state legislature—the Assembly and state Senate. Seems simple enough. Ah, but this is New York.

Voters across the state approved a measure in 2014 to create a special committee that would draw new voting district maps after the 2020 census. The committee had a total of 10 members: 5 members appointed by Democrats and 5 by Republicans. But the committee deadlocked, with each side having its own maps favoring its own party, so the decision went to the legislature. Democrats hold commanding majorities in both houses and to nobody’s surprise he Democrats adopted the maps that they had redrawn. You can find the maps online at the links below.

Is this an assault on the right to vote as is happening in states in parts of the South? No, not here, though Republicans might disagree. What is likely is a map that disadvantages some GOP candidates. This process is a prerogative of the majority party that dates back to the beginning of the United States. The term that describes it is gerrymandering.

What we’re seeing is the logical outcome of one-party control of state government. In previous redistricting cycles here in New York, the state Senate was controlled by a GOP majority and the Democrats were the majority in the Assembly. Redistricting required a compromise, where the Senate drew maps for its members and Democrats did likewise in its house. Politicians still grumbled despite accepting the redistricting deal.

This approach doesn’t guarantee good state government. But it does challenge Democrats in the Assembly and the Senate to adopt legislation that benefits all the people of this state. There will be no one but lawmakers to blame for bad government..

Redistricting does matter. Twenty-first century Gerrymandered state districts have given Republicans a far larger voice in national decisions than their enrollment numbers would predict. The Supreme Court has agreed to review an Alabama redistricting case that appears to be racially biased, but the court’s decision won’t affect this year’s redistricting.

It’s time to move on, for both parties to select their state and congressional slates. There is no rush to fix redistricting now and no clear way to fix it with the way the state. But do take the time to check the maps. You may know who represents you now in state government. The names may change when you vote this year.

If you want to know more about redistricting maps visit theGraduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) at: https://newyork.redistrictingandyou.org

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