For career politicians it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Every 10 years, after the census figures come out, politicians re-draw the lines in their districts so that they can be re-elected again and again.
Politicians might say it ensures stability. Or, putting it more accurately, it ensures that it’s almost impossible for a newcomer to take their place.
On this issue, Governor Cuomo has been on the side of reform since the beginning of his term. He wants a special, impartial commission to re-draw the boundaries of districts. Neither party would be in control. That’s the theory anyway.
Meanwhile, the legislative redistricting committee has been holding hearings around the state. And, as a New York Times editorial stated, “the exercise is a sham. The new political districts are being drawn in secret for one overriding purpose: to protect party majorities and incumbents, often for life.”
In plain language, the legislators are putting the fix in -- for themselves. So the reformers argue.
Cuomo now threatens to veto any redistricting proposal from the legislature that means incumbents are protected.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political operative, dissents from the reformer’s view. He asked me: “Where is it written that there should be an independent commission? It is the Legislature’s job to re-draw district lines. If they don’t do it, why have a Legislature?
Sheinkopf adds: “I think this is likely to wind up in the courts anyway.”
Cuomo, in a sense, seems to agree. On a radio show in Albany, he said: "My vetoing the law isn’t a slam dunk either,right? Because then a court will decide whether or not the law is a good law, whether or not I had the right to veto in the first place so we’re not really sure what happens by that route either.”
Sheinkopf says of Cuomo’s approach: “It’s a way to create favor with the editorial writers.”
That may be so but there has to be a better way to accomplish this reform. We’re floundering around and neither the Legislature, the governor, nor the voters seem to have the answer.
This is the sad truth.