senate Bill S2892

Proposes a constitutional amendment to create a non-partisan apportionment commission

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Bill Status

  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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  • 05 / Mar / 2009
  • 09 / Mar / 2009
  • 31 / Mar / 2009
  • 06 / Jan / 2010
  • 12 / Jan / 2010
  • 01 / Feb / 2010


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Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
Legislative Cycle:
Senate Judiciary
Law Section:
Constitution, Concurrent Resolutions to Amend

Sponsor Memo


amendment to article 3 of the constitution, in relation to creating a
non-partisan apportionment commission

To create a five member non-partisan apportionment committee for the
purpose of creating new legislative districts every ten years.

Section one amends sections 4 and 5 of Article 3 of the Constitution,
and adds a new Section 5-b.

* Article 3 Section 4 is amended to charge a reapportionment
commission (rather than the Legislature) with the responsibility for
apportionment of the Assembly members and adjustment or alteration of
Senate and Assembly districts. Added language provides that:

* In no case shall a Senate district have a population which varies
from the average population of all districts, unless a population
variance is necessary to comply with one of the other standards set
forth in this section, and in no case shall a single district have a
population which varies more than five percent from the average
population of all districts. Congressional districts shall have
populations as nearly equal as is practicable based on the population
reported in the federal census taken in each year ending in zero. No
district for election of members to the United States House of
Representatives shall have a population that varies by more than one
percent from the average population of all congressional districts in
the state.

* The districts of a house shall be as compact as possible, consistent
with the standards listed above. In no case shall the aggregate length
of the boundaries of all the districts of a house exceed by more than
five percent the shortest possible aggregate length of all the
districts under any other plan for the same house that is consistent
with the other standards contained in the Constitution. In the case of
a local political subdivision that has a population sufficient to
establish two or more districts for anyone house, the aggregate length
of the boundaries of all districts for that house entirely within the
political subdivision shall not exceed by more than five percent the
shortest possible aggregate length of the districts within the
political subdivision under any other plan that is consistent with the
other standards contained in the Constitution.

* Districts shall not be drawn for the purpose of favoring any
political party, incumbent legislator or other person or group. In
preparing a plan, the commission shall not consider or take into
account the address of individual persons, including incumbent
legislators. The commission shall not use the political affiliations
of registered voters, previous election results, addresses of
incumbent legislators, addresses of individual persons and demographic
information other than population head counts for the purpose of
favoring any political party, incumbent legislator or other person or
group. Districts shall not be drawn for the purpose of diluting the
voting strength of any language or racial minority group.

* Article 3 Section 5 is also amended to transfer apportionment
responsibility from the legislature to an apportioning commission, and
imposes requirements on the adjustment of Assembly districts according
to the standards set forth for the Senate above.

* New language regarding supreme court jurisdiction over
reapportionment is substituted for existing language, giving deadlines
for: filing a petition challenging the commission's apportionment plan
(within 45 days of the plan's adoption); for the court to render a
decision (within 60 days after a petition is filed); and for the
commission to prepare a new plan should the court find that the
original plan is inconsistent with any state or federal constitutional
or statutory provision (within 60 days of the court's decision).

* New language is added providing that a reapportionment plan shall be
in force until the effective date of a plan based on the next census
unless it is modified by court order. A plan shall not be subject to
amendment, approval or repeal by initiative, referendum or act of the

* New language is added providing that the Legislature may define by
law any of the standards in this section and may establish by law
additional standards, consistent with federal and state constitutional
provisions, designed to guarantee fair and effective representation
for all citizens. No law shall modify a plan in effect at the time of
the effective date of that law.

* A new Section 5-b is added to Article 3 providing that in each
census year and at any other time of court ordered apportionment, a
commission shall be established to prepare a reapportionment plan for
state legislative and congressional districts. The commission shall
consist of five members, none of whom may be past or current public
officials, nor past or current office holders in any political party.
The Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly,
the Minority Leader of the Senate and the Minority Leader of the
Assembly shall each select one member. The four members shall select,
by a vote of at least three members, a fifth member who shall serve as
chair. The Legislature shall establish by law qualifications of
commissioners and procedures for their selection and the filling of
vacancies. The Legislature shall establish by law the duties and
powers of the commission and shall appropriate funds to enable the
commission to carry out its duties.

At the beginning of each decade, the Legislature, based on the results
of United States census, must redraw the lines that delineate Assembly
and Senate districts. This reapportionment process is necessary to
maintain the "one person, one vote" principle embodied in our
constitution. Currently, the majority parties in each house have de
facto control of drawing the district lines. There is widespread
perception that the redrawing of district lines is a politically
charged process widely misused for political purposes. That New York
elections demonstrate unusually high re-election rates, and
persistently produce a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate, no
doubt contributes to this perception. Moreover, we see convoluted
districts that snake throughout counties, including or excluding
towns, blocks and even individual streets. This suggests that new
districts are often drawn to favor the election of a candidate from a
certain party, and that areas are included or excluded based on their
political and electoral proclivities rather than a true commonality of
interest. This bill provides for a process far less vulnerable to
charges of politicization. It assigns the responsibility for drawing
lines not to the Legislature but to a reapportionment Commission
composed of individuals who do not hold elective office. The majority
and minority leaders of both houses would each appoint one member to
this committee. These four members would elect a fifth member to serve
as chairman. These members are insulated from political motivations
and self-interest in the redistricting process, and could redraw the
districts more objectively. The bill also combats perceptions of
gerrymandering by providing that each district be as compact as

possible and by barring the use of information other than the United
States Census in the reapportionment plan.

S.487 of 2007-2008
S.779 of 2001-2002
S.988 of 1999-2000
S.3445 of 1997-1998
S.3053 of 1995-1996
S.8120 of 1993-1994


This is a constitutional amendment requiring passage by two successive
legislatures and approval by the voters.
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