Judges must fix redistricting mess

Michael Gianaris

February 22, 2012

The Queens Chronicle wrote an article that further delves into the problems of the Senate Republicans' redistricting proposal and how federal judges may need to step in.

Gov. Cuomo is reforming the state government in leaps and bounds, but many members of the Legislature haven’t gotten the memo yet. So the redrawing of lawmakers’ districts for the Assembly, Senate and U.S. Congress following the Census has been typical of the Albany of years past: behind schedule, nonsensical in many respects and, of course, utterly politicized.

Now the federal judiciary may step in to clean up the mess our lawmakers, especially members of the Republican-led Senate, have made of the redistricting process. Judge Dennis Jacobs, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, on Tuesday named a three-judge panel to consider whether a special master should be appointed to oversee the redrawing of the lines.

It’s a welcome development. For one thing, time is of the essence, and there’s not much reason to have any faith the legislators serving on LATFOR, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, will get the work done soon enough. The problem is that congressional primaries are scheduled for June 26, nearly three months earlier than in the past, because of a new federal law designed to ensure that servicemen and women overseas get their ballots well ahead of the general election. And candidates need time to gather the signatures they need to get on the ballot, not to mention the financial contributions they need to run — both of which are impossible if they don’t know where the districts will be.

The other reason we welcome federal intervention is that LATFOR has proven itself incapable of designing fair districts that provide the voters with the representation they deserve. And the whole process has been flawed from the start. Most lawmakers from Queens had signed on to a reform effort led by former Mayor Ed Koch, promising to appoint an independent body to redraw the lines. That simply never happened, and Cuomo, who stuck to his word, has said that he will veto LATFOR’s proposal.

Read the full article here.