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Good-government chief: Congressional district design favors Democrats

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First, the bad news: A good-government group believes a legislative proposal for the north country’s congressional seat doesn’t serve the interests of the region’s residents.

But the good news is those legislative proposals hold no special weight before the court that ultimately could decide which politicians represent which areas unless they come to an agreement, which may never happen.

“These maps remain hyper-political,” said Susan Lerner, the head of Common Cause New York, in a conference call with reporters Friday.

As such, Ms. Lerner said, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should veto the maps.

Ms. Lerner’s slide show presentation on the Assembly Democrats’ and Senate Republicans’ proposals pointed out a few districts she considered “gerrymandered” — drawn with partisan advantage and not community interest or logic in mind.

One of those districts was the 23rd Congressional District, now represented by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“The north country, as in the current map, isn’t very well served by the Democratic-suggested plan,” Ms. Lerner said.

The Democrats’ proposal would bring Mr. Owens’s district into Utica, which has a 2-to-1 Democrat-to-Republican ratio. It also would pull the district out of heavily Republican areas such as Madison, Essex and Fulton counties. According to a Times analysis, the new district wouldn’t add any Republicans, but would add about 14,000 Democrats from the current district.

“It looks to us like an attempt to give incumbent Bill Owens more Democratic votes and make him more secure, as opposed to serving the people of the north country,” Ms. Lerner said.

A federal court is prepared to step in and impose its own map on the state if the Assembly and Senate can’t agree on a plan, or if Mr. Cuomo vetoes the plan they agree on. One of the sticking points is future redistricting cycles; some good-government groups are open to an agreement that would change the process for the next cycle of redistricting to make it more independent.

Mr. Cuomo said in a radio interview Friday morning with WGDJ-AM Talk 1300’s Fredric U. Dicker in Albany that much of the process remains in the air.

A Friday deadline for citizen groups has passed. The federal court accepted submissions from the general public, which will, on paper, hold as much sway over a potential court decision as the separate proposals from the Assembly and the Senate.

That was good news for Ms. Lerner.

“These are not official maps,” she said. “The only reason the court would have to give these any deference is if they’re passed and signed by the governor. Unless it were a completely nonpoliticized map, it should be vetoed.”

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