“Redistricting reform has been on the agenda in Albany for three decades and there is no excuse that the leaders can’t get together to get this done in the December session. Only a ‘collusion of avoidance’ amongst Albany’s leadership stands in the way.” says Samuels

New York, NY – Last night, Bill Samuels, founder of the New Roosevelt Initiative, during a talk at the Museum of the City of New York, again called on Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and leaders in the Albany legislature, to make passing a Constitutional Amendment on independent redistricting an urgent priority during the December Special Session in Albany, which started on Monday. Samuels made the remarks during a panel discussion called, “Making New York State Government Great Again,” which was moderated by Henry Stern, founder and President of New York Civic.

“Redistricting reform has been on the agenda in Albany for nearly three decades. There are no constitutional or procedural hurdles that prevent it from being passed in the December session. All the key players, from State Senate and Assembly leaders to the Governor’s office know what needs to be done and yet there appears to be a collusion of avoidance with regards to redistricting,” said Samuels.  “The requirements of Article XIX of the state constitution would apply in 2011 and not 2010.”

Samuels reiterated that, “in truth there was no real ‘voter’ revolt in New York during the mid-term elections. Instead voters were so turned-off that New York State had the lowest turnout in the nation. Issues like independent redistricting are very complex and change will only occur if there is immediate, decisive leadership from the very top in Albany.”

As Samuels pointed out last week, Article III of the New York State Constitution  vests legislative power in the Senate and Assembly and the final responsibility for redistricting in Sections 2 through 5-a of that Article.  Since the legislature’s power to set the boundaries of districts through redistricting is constitutional, no relevant statute can seek to diminish that power, circumvent it, or take it away.  Therefore, any solution that does not include an accompanying constitutional amendment can be easily ignored or replaced by the legislature.

This means that a new redistricting statue passed after Jan 1, 2011 continues to leave the legislature with the opportunity to gerrymander. During the campaign, Governor-elect Cuomo pledged and most likely will, veto any such gerrymandered redistricting plans presented by the legislature.  This leaves the distinct possibility that redistricting will ultimately be decided once again by the courts, as it was after the 1990 and 2000 census.  In both instances, the court unfortunately ruled to uphold the gerrymandered redistricting plans.

“It is time to deal with the issue and rectify the injustices of the gerrymander deals made in the early 1980’s which gave the Senate to the Republicans and the Assembly to the Democrats,” Samuels said. “Until we achieve redistricting reform, other much needed reforms will be impeded and keep the people of New York from having the legislature they deserve.”

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

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