Angry New Yorker

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Ending Gerrymandering

The brain trust at Angry New Yorker views gerrymandering, as widely used to carve out "safe" districts for one party or the other, to be perhaps the single most destructive device to democracy known. While we're strongly republican/conservative, we believe every election should be fiercely contested. Yet, in the last election nearly fully 25% of state-wide elections listed only one person on the ballot. That's not an election in our book.

To address this electoral abomination, New York State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris recently introduced a bill, which if enacted, would enable a committee of 8 people (4 chosen by the 4 legislative leaders, and 4 chosen by the Chief Judge, AG, and Comptroller) to select a pool of 40 individuals with geographic distributional requirements and requirements that certain numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and non-major party/independent voters be included. The Brennan Center for Justice described the proposal, thus:
From that pool, each of the 4 legislative leaders selects 2 members of a reapportionment commission. Those 8 members then select 3 members from the original pool. No more than 4 members can be enrolled in any one party. That reapportionment commission then draws the district lines for both state and congressional offices. The bill provides several specific criteria to be followed in that drafting process, including a preference for competitive districts.
The legislature must vote on the plan that is produced, and if it does not pass, the commission can do another version. If the third plan drawn by the commission does not pass, the Legislature can pass its own plan. But the Legislature's plan must serve the bill's criteria. If the plan ends up in court (which the bill virtually guarantees), then the bill instructs the Court of Appeals to select that plan which best serves the stated criteria.
In sum, this bill is not perfect, but it would be a tremendous step forward in bringing a measure of independence and rationality to the reapportionment process. It does by legislation what really should be done by constitutional amendment, but the chances of its passage are thus much greater. While it preserves significant control for the Legislature, it also would likely produce a Court of Appeals decision that would select one of the commission's plans over that drawn by the Legislature itself. For these reasons, the Brennan Center and several other good government organizations, including the Citizens Union, strongly support the bill.
We likewise support the bill as a first step to bring elections back to the intended goals -- not to provide a rubber-stamp on sinecures for partisans, but as direct referendums to decide our representatives.

Write your Assembly person and tell them to support the bill. Don't know who your assembly representative is? Don't worry. Even policy wonks like us often forget. Look your's up here.

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