Fixing Albany: An Independent Redistricting Commission
June 2010There are many problems that need fixing in Albany, but most observers agree that creating a fair redistricting process is an important place to start.
That’s because the State’s party leaders control redistricting with one goal: protecting incumbents. In fact, a report by the Citizens Union Foundation of the City of New York found that in the past ten years, a State legislator was more likely to be removed from office due to ethical misconduct than be redistricted out of one’s seat or die in office.
“Legislative gerrymandering is practiced to the extreme in New York State and results in the polarization of issues, and is probably the single largest factor in the dysfunction and chaos in our State government’s operation,” says Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. He continues: “The more competition in a district, the more likely we are to have real conversation about how to solve the State’s problems.”
The 2010 Census presents an opportunity to rethink how the State redraws districts. A $70,000 grant to Citizens Union Foundation is helping it advocate for an independent body to take over redistricting from the legislature-appointed body that currently handles the job. “As a watchdog with clout at the City and State levels, Citizens Union is in a good position to finally help change the redistricting process,” says Pat Swann, senior program officer for community development and environment at The Trust. “In addition to issuing recommendations, it has assembled a panel including former Mayor Ed Koch and former Attorney General Robert Abrams to champion reform. All gubernatorial candidates have already pledged to support reform.”