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New redistricting plan is not nonpartisan

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The Watertown Times had an editorial on the state Legislature’s and governor’s draft referendum to provide a non-partisan or independent redistricting constitutional amendment beginning in 2022. The legislative referendum has passed twice in both legislative houses and been approved by the governor. In the 2012 national and state election, the voters approved the draft constitutional amendment referendum and in the 2014 election, the voters will either approve or not approve the proposed redistricting amendment. Whatever name is placed upon the amendment, it does not stand up to nonpartisan or independent redistricting. Partisan legislative leaders select the eight members of the reapportionment commission. Those elected by the legislative leadership in turn select two nonpartisan/independent commissioners. A professional group of election and redistricting individuals assist and provide support for the commission.

The work of the Independent Redistricting Commission is submitted to the Legislature and governor for approval. Prior to submitting the commission’s work, the Legislature has final control in determining the reapportionment amendment but within limited sections. Constructing a less partisan legislative redistricting is only a limited improvement over single-party control for long periods in power. The New York state Senate was controlled by the Republicans for 42 years until 2008. Democrats have dominated the Assembly since 1976 by 60 percent or more.

A truly nonpartisan redistricting commission, which is independent and staffed by professionals in legislative redistricting, would provide a redistricting plan which recognizes the geographic map of New York and the character of its regions. One-party control of the Legislature over time distorts the character of democratic government and the rules of the game.

By selecting eight out of 10 commissioners, the two major parties will determine the outcome of redistricting, and it is unlikely that nonpartisanship and independent redistricting will prevail. The new reapportionment amendment is an improvement on the current law but not nonpartisan.

Robert Wells

Canton

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