Redistricting Prop Passes, But Concern Turns To 2022

Nov 6, 2014

Dick Dadey of Citizens Union says Prop 1 will let good-government groups hold lawmakers accountable for district maps.
Credit legislativegazette.com

All three propositions on the New York State ballot passed on Tuesday. Supporters of the measure to change the redistricting process say the vote shows New Yorkers are hungry for reform.

Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution that will require the legislature to appoint a commission redraw Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, a group that supported the amendment, says the 57 percent percent of voters who said yes shows that the public craves reform of the present system.

“New Yorkers are hungry for reform,” Dadey said. “ New Yorkers did not want to walk away from an opportunity to say ‘We want change in Albany.’”

Opponents said there were too many loopholes in the measure that would allow lawmakers to override the decisions of the commission and draw their own lines to favor incumbents. Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says he’ll try to convince the legislature to make improvements between now and the next time the lines are redrawn, in eight years. And he says it’s also possible that the legislature could use the new system to draw fair lines. But he says based on past experience, that’s less likely to happen.   

“My prediction is, sadly, that in the year 2022, I’ll be running around trying to get the governor to veto the lines, saying they are still gerrymandered and they look funny,” Horner said. “Hopefully, that’s not the case.”

Dadey admits the measure is not perfect, but he says the constitutional changes provide a strong basis for court challenges, if lawmakers still try to take advantage and draw districts that benefit the political parties in power.

“It will give us new ammunition to make sure that these lines are drawn fairly,” Dadey said.

Government reform groups who split over whether the redistricting ballot proposal was a good idea may now be able to come together over another issue. Both Citizens Union and NYPIRG agree that steps need to be taken to improve the state’s increasingly dismal voting rate.

Horner says 2014 could be the lowest rate of voter turnout in the state’s history, and he blames the “toxic nature of politics” with no positive vision.

“The campaigns are awash in billionaire and special interest money,” he said. “And I think that turns off voters.”

The groups also agree that their preferred remedy to help get money out of politics, the public financing of campaigns, is even less likely to happen, now that Republicans, who oppose the idea, have retaken control of the State Senate.