After many agonizing months of political intrigue and bickering, state legislators have finally made a deal on how to redistrict the Assembly and the Senate.
It should be no surprise that they’ve decided to keep the same old system, more or less, giving the political bosses the ultimate say on where to draw the boundaries of Assembly and Senate seats.
Every 10 years, on the basis of the federal census, such lines are re-drawn by the Legislature. And there’s been an intensive effort by reform groups to enact changes to this system this time. As of Sunday night, the Legislature’s process apparently ended -- with no major changes. The full details were kept secret.
One professor, Gerald Benjamin, says that observing the process is like watching a performance of Hamlet in modern dress. “You’ve seen Shakespeare’s tragedy before, more than once. It looks different this time, but the plots’s the same. You know for sure that it’s not going to come out well.”
Susan Lerner, of Common Cause, deplores the outcome of the legislators’ deliberations. She told me:
“We’ve looked long and hard at this issue. We can’t support their ideas. Both parties are running roughshod over the wishes of the voters. It’s high-handed. There’s no transparency. It’s an indictment of Albany’s continuing dysfunction."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has not yet agreed to the deal. He wants to look over the new legislative maps first. And he wants to see the proposed constitutional amendment the legislators are proposing to change the redistricting process. They are suggesting that a 10-member panel of non-legislators be selected mainly by legislators to draw new maps. But the Legislature would still have final approval. So it may not be as much of a change as promised.
Redistricting isn’t expected to occur again until 2022 -- therefore it could be that we’re just pushing the issue down the road for another decade at least.
In Albany progress is halting, slow. And the bosses don’t give up power easily.