“By immediately appointing his own non-partisan Advisory Redistricting Committee, Governor Cuomo would allow time to engage communities statewide in a robust public debate on what an appropriate redistricting plan should look like and pressure LATFOR to produce a reasonable plan,” says Samuels

New York, NY – Today Bill Samuels, founder of the Albany reform organization, New Roosevelt called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to immediately appoint his own advisory committee to draw new legislative district maps based on the standards set forth in the Governor’s own Independent Redistricting Legislation. By appointing his own commission, Governor Cuomo could allow ample time for a statewide public debate on an appropriate redistricting map.

Such a map will provide a contrast to LATFOR’s map, which could be delivered as late as Spring 2012. Having an appropriate map already in the public domain will also speed up the process by providing guidance to the courts in the event the Governor vetoes LATFOR’s map.

“While I applaud Governor Cuomo’s successful campaign on the historic same sex marriage bill, he needs to apply the same type of creative governing and strategy to passing an independent and non-gerrymandered redistricting map. For fair redistricting we need an open debate among the Governor, the legislature, good government groups, local communities and the public,” said Samuels.

“By creating a non-partisan, fair-minded committee to draw up district maps today, he would set the appropriate standard for the legislators as to what an acceptable redistricting map would look like in practice and help to educate the public as to what they should expect and demand from Albany. And by doing it in advance of LATFOR’s map, he can apply pressure on the task force and potentially avoid a drawn out process that either ends in a veto or a last minute incremental deal that only moves redistricting forward marginally, similar to what occurred on ethics during the recent legislative session.”

As LATFOR began its public hearing process last week, the majority parties of both houses were quick to dismiss the idea of Independent Redistricting as unnecessary and impractical.

Samuels warned that without a Governor’s committee on redistricting, Cuomo could inadvertently end up promoting a strategy of incumbency protection by waiting to simply veto maps drawn by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), a threat he reiterated last week.

During his campaign and consistently since being elected, Governor Cuomo has pledged to veto any gerrymandered redistricting plans presented by the legislature or created by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR).

But Samuels explained that while the commitment to veto an unfair plan is laudable, in absence of an independent committee map, the Governor’s veto of LATFOR-drawn lines would actually help achieve the legislature’s goals of discouraging challenges and making it more difficult for candidates who do ultimately choose to run against incumbent legislators.

“By continuing to merely reiterate his threat to veto any gerrymandered map that LATFOR produces, the Governor is inadvertently playing into a cynical incumbency protection strategy,” explained Samuels. “Without clear knowledge of which districts they would run in or whom they would run against, potential challengers across the state will be forced to wait to start their campaigns, leaving them at a distinct disadvantage in their attempts to unseat Albany’s entrenched incumbents.”

Samuels calls are his latest attempt to publicize opportunities for the Governor and Albany lawmakers to make good on redistricting reform once and for all. Last summer Samuels called upon then Governor David Paterson to convene a special session on redistricting. When Cuomo was elected, Samuels called upon the Governor-elect to threaten to line item veto funding for LATFOR in order to force a public debate on the issue.

For more information about the New Roosevelt, go to www.newrooseveltinitiative.com.

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