Nov 3, 2014

Vote No on NYS Prop 1: Revising State's Redistricting Procedure

I would describe myself as reform minded, and am aware of the need to drastically change how redistricting occurs in New York every 10 years in response to the Constitutionally required census. The ballot prop 1 is an attempt to reform redistricting that is akin to moving around the chairs of the Titanic, though worse since if it passes it will for the foreseeable future be considered already dealt with. Currently redistricting is approved directly by the state legislature, after the passage of Prop 1 their will be commission that will have vague directives who will propose a redistricting plan that will be required approval of the state legislature's leaders.

Inserting a middleman and unenforceable directives do not make actual reform. The directives are listed below:
  • No district lines may result in the prohibited denial or abridgement of racial or language minority voting rights. Districts cannot be drawn to have the purpose of or result in the denial or abridgement of such rights.
  • To the extent practicable, districts must contain as nearly as may be an equal number of inhabitants. The commission must provide a specific public explanation for any deviation that exists.
  • Each district must consist of contiguous territory and be as compact in form as practicable.
  • Districts cannot be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.
  • Maintenance of cores of existing districts, of pre-existing political subdivisions, and of communities of interest must be considered.

Caveats of "as practicable", "discourage competition" or "favoring or disfavoring" are so subjective to make them entirely unenforceable, even if the legislative leaders wanted them to be enforced. The legislative leaders remaining as the final arbitrators is the core rationale that good government reformers have lambasted Prop 1. The New York Times succinctly described the prop as "This is a phony reform that purports to establish a new system of drawing legislative districts. Legislative leaders would appoint a committee charged with drawing new districts. If the legislators don’t like the first two tries, they can draw the districts themselves. The net result would be to reinforce, not reform, a system that virtually guarantees job security for incumbents and discourages competition."

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