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Pledge-signers have no comment on whether they're pledge-breakers


Here's an interesting wrinkle in my rather lengthy story about the state's redistricting process: The candidates who pledged in 2010 to take politics out of redistricting did not respond to my requests for comment on whether the constitutional amendment they're debating actually does that.
So, in fewer words: Public officials made an election-year promise, but despite several requests for comment over several days, won't say whether they're delivering on it. (Several good-government groups, including the one that corralled the pledges in the first place, think they're breaking their word.)
As the pledge outlined here notes, the constitutional amendment does not fulfill at least one of the criteria that Sens. Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo and Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush promised to fulfill.
Here's how, as New York Daily News' Bill Hammond points out on Twitter: The pledge-signers promised that they would create a system in which "The most and least populous senate and assembly districts shall not exceed the mean population of districts for each house by more than one percent."
In English, that means that legislative districts have to be about the same size. The constitutional amendment that is being debated right now doesn't address that with a specific number. Senate districts up north are underpopulated by up to 5 percent to give Republicans an advantage; Assembly districts are overpopulated by up to 5 percent to give Democrats an advantage.
Other tenets of the constitutional amendment are less black-and-white. Is the constitutional amendment independent? Does it take politics out of redistricting? Does it ensure fairer elections, as the past and present candidates promised to bring to New York after years of partisan gerrymandering? Those are judgment calls.
But New York Uprising has them dead to rights on the population deviation.
It would be nice to see how Mrs. Ritchie, Mr. Griffo and Mr. Blankenbush would explain whether the constitutional satisfies the pledge even when it doesn't hew 100 percent to it — an argument that can very well be made, of course.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, meanwhile, has always been a "bum" to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. She never signed the pledge saying she'd support independent redistricting, and is poised to vote for the amendment anyway. She says that you can't really take politics out of redistricting, and that this constitutional amendment doesn't go the whole nine yards in doing that.
"It keeps a certain amount of responsibility with the Legislature, and accountability with the Legislature," Mrs. Russell said.

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