Cuomo pledged to end partisan gerrymandering. His plan just failed its biggest test.

The Senate Chamber flooring is pictured throughout a Legislative Session on the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. | Hans Pennink/AP Photograph

ALBANY, N.Y. — Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature structural change to state authorities throughout his first time period was an overhaul of political mapmaking in New York. A brand new “Impartial Redistricting Fee” would “completely reform the redistricting course of in New York to as soon as and for all end self-interested partisan gerrymandering,” he promised.

That bipartisan fee flunked its biggest take a look at on Monday, with its 10 members deadlocking 5-5 on a pair of competing proposals.


“This was an abject failure,” stated commissioner Ross Brady, who’s allied with the Republican members.

That leaves the redistricting course of precisely because it was a decade in the past. State lawmakers are actually likely to reject both of the commission’s plans and draw the maps themselves. And success just isn’t a given — the Legislature’s Democratic majorities want close to unanimity and can have to fend off any GOP courtroom challenges.

However the fee’s stalemate eases the way in which for probably the most pro-Democratic gerrymandering within the historical past of New York, the nation’s second most-populous Democratic stronghold. That may present a significant increase to the celebration because it seeks to preserve management of the Home of Representatives. There’s now a smoother path for brand new strains that may assist improve the dimensions of New York’s 19-member Democratic congressional delegation to 22 or probably 23, even because the variety of seats shrinks from 27 to 26.

Such an consequence may need been predictable, partly as a result of a state constitutional modification that created the fee left a path for the Legislature to vote down its strains twice after which return to their outdated mapmaking habits.

“The unbiased fee was fashioned as a false optimistic step by Cuomo, as a result of its suggestions don’t have to be adopted,” stated Democratic activist Invoice Samuels, who helped lead the opposition to the modification. “On the time it was arrange, most of us stated it was meaningless.”

The fee happened when former New York Metropolis Mayor Ed Koch made a push for redistricting reform the final act in his colourful life. Cuomo had pledged to veto any gerrymandered strains whereas looking for his first time period in 2010. Koch’s activism on the topic made it inconceivable for Cuomo to again away from that promise with out struggling vital blowback. However legislators had been unwilling to give up their conventional prerogative, and the modification to make some adjustments beginning within the 2020s represented the very best path for minimizing the backlash from both lawmakers or Koch.

Whereas it didn’t go so far as Cuomo had initially promised, the modification did depart some safeguards in opposition to one-party gerrymandering in place.

A lot to the chagrin of different Democrats, Cuomo’s modification successfully stated that if the celebration ever received management of the state Senate, new strains would wish two-thirds supermajorities in each that chamber and the Meeting, which Democrats have dominated since Watergate. On the time, the notion of Democrats profitable 42 of the state Senate’s 63 seats was thought-about extremely unlikely. Then got here Donald Trump and an ensuing blue wave election in 2018. Democrats now have 43 seats within the Senate.

The modification additionally allowed for the likelihood that the fee may truly attain an settlement. In that state of affairs, with Democratic and Republican commissioners coming collectively round one set of strains, legislators may need confronted intense strain to associate with the maps.

However Monday’s vote calls into query whether or not a fee with 5 members allied with Democrats and 5 with Republicans, most of whom are appointed by legislative leaders, can ever work as marketed.

“It wasn’t an unbiased fee … Your complete method it was arrange was problematic from the start,” stated Susan Lerner of Widespread Trigger New York. Lerner, the manager director of the civic activist group, received a 2014 lawsuit asking a courtroom to block the looks of the phrase “unbiased” on the poll when the constitutional modification went to voters as a referendum, arguing it was deceptive to give the fee that label.

Assuming commissioners don’t discover a method to strike a deal after they draw a second set of maps later this month, there are solely a few roadblocks stopping a mapmaking course of dominated by Democrats.


For one, they’ll want to stay unified. Democrats have the mandatory two-thirds majorities in each chambers. However they don’t have a whole lot of respiration room in both. If any blocs of members — such because the handful of socialists in every home — make calls for which are unacceptable to their colleagues, then the majorities would possibly want to begin searching for some Republican votes, which would definitely complicate issues.

However what in the event that they discover the votes? The one factor saving Republicans from being redistricted into oblivion may effectively be anti-gerrymandering language within the modification, resembling a prohibition on drawing strains “to discourage competitors.”

Language like that’s “removed from sufficient,” Lerner stated. A number of attorneys have argued over time that the one hope for profitable a courtroom case on such a phrase would contain Democrats being silly sufficient to depart a paper path by which they explicitly say they’re gerrymandering a district. However it’s sufficient to assure that Republicans aren’t going to give up anytime quickly.

“That is unprecedented that we’ve got the requirements that are actually within the structure, and no courtroom has ever interpreted the requirements,” stated former U.S. Rep. John Faso, a Republican. “So I believe it’s a giant gamble for them if they fight to overreach and do an excessive partisan gerrymandering.”

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button