Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is calling for a two-pronged approach to the drawing of state and congressional district lines. For step one, Galef wants a special session of the legislature to be convened in order to vote on establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission to determine state and congressional legislative lines for the 2011-12 elections. Secondly, she recommends passing a constitutional amendment to ensure that with each new census, an Independent Commission would automatically be established to carefully and fairly analyze the formation of the individual voting districts.
“Last week, I attended a hearing in White Plains of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR)--not a very sexy title for the Redistricting Task Force, but critically important to our state’s and our country’s future,” Galef said. “My colleagues in the state Assembly and Senate are holding these hearings statewide. While I think there was some valuable information shared at these hearings, more needs to be done to ensure the district boundaries established are fair representations of the local population and do not just protect incumbent politicians. How lines are drawn for election districts can determine the successes or failures of elected officials at the voting booth. The fact that we do not have fair fight districts is allowing fringe voters to have a greater say in the fate of our elections than they should, because primaries take on greater importance when there is no balance in the regular elections. Furthermore, gerrymandered districts divide communities, diminishing their ability to advocate for their interests, and they marginalize growing minority groups in favor of protecting the old guard.”
Galef continued on to say, “At the hearing last week, we heard many calls for a special session of the state legislature to establish an Independent Commission in time for the 2012 elections. I support the public call for independent redistricting. We cannot put this off for another 10 years. We must return to Albany in September to lay the foundation for the future success of our state and nation. Time is of the essence,” Galef asserted. The assemblywoman is calling for an up or down vote from the legislature to come to an agreement over a fair process for redistricting.
Good government groups such as Citizens Union are strong supporters of independent redistricting. “Citizens Union supports Assemblymember Galef in her effort to get legislators back to Albany in a special session to finally tackle redistricting reform and put in place an independent redistricting process,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “Redistricting reform before the 2012 elections is crucial to ensuring that districts are not so polarized as to prevent needed policy debate about issues of importance to everyday New Yorkers. Voters deserve responsive politicians, and we are grateful for Assemblymember Galef’s support for ending partisan gerrymandering in favor of a new impartial process.”
A recent Quinnipiac Poll also showed that New Yorkers support an independent panel. Last year, 85% of state legislators signed a pledge from former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s led organization New York Uprising to reform New York State Government. Among the many points Assemblywoman Galef agreed to by signing this pledge was to institute independent redistricting.
Galef calls for the passage of two bills by the legislature, the first being the Governor’s Program Bill #3 (A.5388/S.3419), or one similar, which might then lead to joint conference committees. There a final best approach could be agreed upon, with both houses weighing in on the decision. Information gleaned from the current Commission could be transferred to an Independent Commission so it would not need to start from scratch, but could make use of the public testimony already documented. Second, for the last 14 years Galef has had a bill (A.5271/S.3331) that calls for a constitutional amendment which would automatically establish an Independent Redistricting Commission every time new census figures are released. This session it passed the Senate, but not the Assembly. Since it calls for a constitutional amendment, in order for it to be adopted the bill would have to also pass the Assembly by the end of session 2012, and then pass both houses again in the 2013-14 session.
“It is critically important that voters with extremist views do not maintain the upper hand, and that districts encourage viable candidates from multiple parties to seek election. We must establish independent redistricting now,” concluded Galef.