Jan 25th - 2:01 pm
Sen. Liz Krueger was among the 20 Democrats to vote against the second passage of an amendment that would create a new entity to oversee the redistricting process.
The measure was opposed by most of the mainline Democratic conference, in part, because of the concern it was tilted heavily in favor of Republicans.
Under the plan, each legislative conference appoints two members, with the eight members agreeing on the final two commission members. Seven members of the 10-member commission would have to advance the redistricting plan.
Krueger, D-Manhattan, outlined her concerns over the amendment in an email to her constituent and pointed to a Times Union editorial that blasted the approach.
From her email:
While I wish the amendment before us represented real reform, it didn’t — the process this amendment would create is actually a step even further in the wrong direction. The editorial board of the Times Union, Albany’s daily newspaper, has done a great job explaining why — and has called for citizens to vote against the amendment, when it goes on the 2014 ballot for approval. I’ve included the full text of their editorial from today’s paper below.
I still look forward to a day when we pass a constitutional amendment establishing a truly independent redistricting process to get legislators out of the business of picking their own voters. Unfortunately, last Wednesday was not that day.
Updated: Here’s a statement from Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif, noting the old chestnut that Democrats had two years to take up independent redistricting and chose not to.
“It’s preposterous that the Senate Democrats would continue to claim they support independent redistricting when the facts don’t bear it out. The Senate Democrats had two years to act on redistricting reform when they were in the majority yet never made it a priority. Last year, they walked out of the chamber and refused to vote on a constitutional amendment to change the process, and now most of them enthusiastically voted no when the measure was brought back to the floor on second passage. Senate Democrats are a lot of things, but reformers they are not.”
Jan 23rd - 6:39 pm
The Senate approved this afternoon the second passage of a constitutional amendment that would create a new body to oversee the politically charged process of redistricting by 2022, with final approval resting on voters in 2014.
The amendment was approved by Senate lawmakers 43-20, with all of the no votes from Democratic lawmakers who said the legislation was tilted heavily in favor of Republicans.
Under the plan, each legislative conference appoints two members, with the eight members agreeing on the final two commission members. Seven members of the 10-member commission would have to advance the redistricting plan (that makes things a bit tricky should the Independent Democratic Conference still be around a decade from now).
“There is no such thing as independent,” said Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson. “If you are human you are going to have a bias one way or the other.”
Sen. Terry Gipson, a freshman Democrat who unseated Republican Stephen Saland, also blasted the measure.
“I have listened to many good public advocacy groups who believe this is the best we can do,” he said. “There are a number of senators who believe this is the best we can do. As a newly elected senator if this the best we can do, it is indeed a sad, sad day in New York.”
But not every Democrat voted against the proposal. Sen. Adriano Espaillat said voters deserved to have a chance to consider the amendment themselves.
“I think that the voters that I represent and the rest of the New Yorkers are smart enough to know whether we send them a good bill or a bad bill,” he said.
The vote ends the latest saga, for now, over the once-a-decade process that embroiled Albany last year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vowed to veto any redistricting plan he deemed partisan. But Senate Republicans had counted on drawing their own districts in order to have maximum advantage in the fall’s legislative elections in an otherwise heavily Democratic state.
With a federal court about to take the process away from state lawmakers, a redistricting plan drawn by lawmakers was approved, along with a host of other Cuomo-backed bills that included a new pension tier, along with first passage of the amendment in a marathon legislative session that went into the wee hours of the morning.
Senate Democrats last year refused to vote on the redistricting plan and walked out the chamber, allowing Republicans to move forward with the redistricting plan and the rest of the legislation. Sen. Dan Squadron was the only Democrat left on the floor.
Republicans lost a numerical majority in the fall anyway, but joined a coalition government with the five breakaway Democrats to retain power.
Citizens Union, meanwhile, the good-government group that backed the amendment, couldn’t help but point out a number of the Democratic lawmakers who pledged to back the measure this year wound up voting no.
The amendment has split good-government organizations, however, and Common Cause has blasted the proposal for actually being worse the current, lawmaker-driven process.
Aug 16th - 5:38 pm
Here’s a cautionary tale lawmakers will likely forget all about in 10 years when the next round of redistricting comes up – unless Cuomo’s constitutional amendment on redistricting reform passes and turns out to be effective.
During the Congressional primary election in June, roughly 300 Republicans in the village of Ballston Spa in Saratoga County should have had a chance to vote in the primary race between Matt Doheny and Kellie Greene. But, the race didn’t appear on the ballot they received. In the rush to prepare, elections officials in Saratoga County admit that they made a mistake and left out a whole neighborhood.
For practical purposes, this mistake didn’t impact the outcome. Even if all of the Republicans eligible to vote had backed Kellie Greene she still would have lost by more than 5000 votes. But it is startling that the dysfunction surrounding redistricting forced a truncated timetable onto elections officials (the maps were finalized on March 19th leaving elections officials just 99 days before the election) and ultimately stripped hundreds of people from their rights as citizens.
To quickly recap what happened – Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats couldn’t agree on a map for congressional districts. In fact, many sources told us the two sides hadn’t even talked about congressional redistricting when a lawsuit created a special master to draw the lines for them in late February. In the end, both the Assembly and Senate took a pass on the reaching an agreement and accepted the maps drawn by the courts.
Saratoga County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Roger Schiera talked to YNN and told us the maps that were provided to them were not as accurate as he would have liked, forcing officials to go street to street to try and figure out which house is in which district. Previously, the entire village was in Rep. Chris Gibson’s district, so the election officials were working from scratch.
The kicker of this all is that apparently the only reason this mistake was discovered was because of this video that Matt Doheny taped earlier this week in which he named all the towns, cities, and villages in his district. He left out the village of Ballston Spa, and someone called him to correct him. Doheny said he was just memorizing from the board of elections list.
Jun 19th - 4:15 pm
Throughout the NY-6 Democratic primary, Assemblywoman Grace Meng has repeatedly argued that while an ethnic base is important (in her case, Asian voters), no candidate is going to be able to win without appealing to other voting blocs.
Hence, her campaign is making much of the fact that she has landed the endorsement of El Diario, New York City’s largest and oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which highlighted the fact that she is the daughter of immigrants and said she “reflects the diverse communities that have settled in Queens and are coming into their own politically.”
Meng’s campaign forwarded this memo on the ethnic breakdown of the vote in the “Asian-high turnout year” of 2009 (the year NYC Comptroller John Liu, who, like Meng, is from Queens, became the first Asian-American elected to a citywide post).
According to Red Horse’s Doug Forand, a consultant to Meng, Latinos make up 18 percent of the district’s population and 14 percent of the prime vote. Forand described this bloc as a “huge swing vote,” and noted Meng has also been endorsed by key Latino leaders/officials, including former Bronx BP Freddy Ferrer, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Assemblyman Francsico Moya, and Sen. Jose Peralta.
These charts assume a turnout of about 32,000 voters next Tuesday, but it’s really anyone’s guess how many people will show up to the polls on a day when no election has been held before.
Jun 4th - 2:38 pm
A campaign committee was registered today – just one day before petitioning is scheduled to start - by Ethel Chen for the 40th Assembly District seat being vacated by Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who hopes to win a June 26 Democratic congressional primary battle in NY-6.
After putting off choosing a favorite, the Queens Democrats quietly endorsed Ron Kim, a Flushing resident and former ombudsman for Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, last week as their favorite to succeed Meng. (Technically speaking, that means she won’t have a Plan B if she’s not successful in the primary, but there’s always the committee to fill vacancies route).
This isn’t Chen’s first Assembly run. She also ran in 2002 for what was then a newly-created Asian seat in Flushing. The New York Times described her as “a retired librarian and a longtime Democratic Party loyalist with a string of previous unsuccessful campaigns under her belt.”
The seat was actually won by a non-Asian that year, Barry Grodenchik. He was ousted two years later by Jimmy Meng, Grace Meng’s father.
In 2006, Meng retired and Ellen Young took over. After a bitter primary fight in 2008, Grace Meng won the district, becoming the first native-born Asian-American to represent the district, which, as you know, has since been redrawn yet again.
May 23rd - 6:44 am
Here’s the video that served as Sen. Mike Gianaris’ response at last night’s LCA show, in which he and his fellow reform-minded Democrats poked fun at their quixotic quest for an independent redistricting process.
The seven-minute spoof opens with Gianaris, who has been pushing for an overhaul of the state’s political line-drawing system since he was in the Assembly, brainstorming with Sens. Kevin Parker and Liz Krueger about how to make Gov. Andrew Cuomo stick to his pledge to veto the Senate GOP’s gerrymandered plan.
At his colleagues’ urging, Gianaris places a personal call to the governor’s office, only to be hung up on by a secretary.
He plays through, however, pretending for his fellow senators’ sake to to give the governor a piece of his mind while in reality, the dial tone is echoing loudly in his ear.
Other cameos: Former Gov. David Paterson, former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, state Sens. Gustavo Rivera, Daniel Squadron and Jose Peralta, Common Cause NY’s Susan Lerner and, of course, the granddaddy of redistricting reform, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.
Also, kudos to my NY1 colleagues Zack Fink and Errol Louis for playing themselves so well.
May 17th - 12:30 pm
The Long Island lawmaker just released the following statement praising the federal three-judge panel’s decision yesterday denying the Democrats’ motion for a preliminary injunction on the LATFOR lines, removing the final remaining hurdle facing the lines drawn by the Senate GOP and approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo:
“The decision comes just two weeks after the New York Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that our redistricting plan complied with the State Constitution, and less than a month since we received preclearance from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice,” Skelos said.
“I am extremely pleased with this decision, and it ensures the state can administer an orderly and fair election this fall.”
In short: More bad news for the Senate Democrats, who also lost their challenge to the 63rd Senate seat, added by the Republicans to boost their chances of retaining the majority this fall. But they seem pretty resigned to their fate, tacking left on a number of controversial issues – from fracking to campaign finance reform – even though it puts them further at odds with the governor.
The Democrats were also bouyed by this week’s Siena poll, which showed 56 percent of New York voters would prefer to see them re-take the majority this fall.
May 4th - 2:53 pm
Citizens Union split with its fellow good-government groups during the redistricting debate, arguing that the recent rulings upholding the plan illustrates how that the issue can’t be left to the courts.
And the statement also underscores that while redistricting is largely over and done with save for a final court challenge, the debate was contentious one for the state’s watchdog groups.
From Dick Dadey, the CU executive director:
These decisions demonstrate more clearly than ever before that we could not have relied on the courts or the Justice Department to correct our fatally flawed redistricting process. That is why the process of drawing legislative lines needed permanent structural reform, and why the recently passed New York State constitutional amendment and statute were essential to reforming this broken process. Had an independent redistricting commission been in place, with appointees balanced among the four legislative leaders in drawing up new lines, we may not have seen the partisan action of the state senate increasing its size to sixty-three seats.
The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, upheld the legality of the new Senate district on Thursday — a move that buoyed Republicans who are trying to hold onto and expand their majority with the seat. And the Obama administration’s Department of Justice signed off on the deal for following the Voting Rights Act.
A final lawsuit is still pending in federal court.
Other good-government groups — most prominently Common Cause — claimed that the courts were the best avenue to take on independent redistricting. A federal magistrate drew Congressional districts after Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans failed to agree on a set of lines themselves.
The House district lines drawn were largely praised by good-government advocates and lawmakers here in Albany.
May 4th - 10:40 am
It’s not just Democrats in the state Senate who are deeply disappointed with the Court of Appeals ruling on Thursday that backed the legality of the so-called 63rd Senate seat carved out of the Capital Region.
Assemblyman Karim Camara, the chairman of the Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, in a statement this morning said the decision undermined political representation.
“It is quite shocking and disappointing that the Court of Appeals has struck down the challenge to blatantly partisan Senate lines. According to the Court, it is not unconstitutional to apply inconsistent formulas when determining something as serious as political representation. The stunning assertion that “consistent application” of one formula is not required, says that based on location certain constituents are entitled to better representation. This is a blatant attempt at retaining power and our politically neutral courts have upheld one of the most partisan drawing decisions ever, which many advocates believe, are an assault on the Voting Rights Act and were designed with the interest of maintaining a Republican controlled Senate. For the constituents of the downstate community the message is clear- your vote has been officially diminished and diluted.”
Camara was a vocal opponent of the redistricting plan approved by the Legislature on March 16 and voted against the deal, which included the start of an independent commission that would run the process in 2022.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice last month announced in a letter that the plan adhered to the Voting Rights Act, despite complaints from minority groups that certain downstate districts and the new Senate seat violated the law.
The seat was drawn in a Republican friendly area that Democrats have argued helps extend the GOP’s majority.
Democrats have nearly exhausted their legal options on redistricting. A final lawsuit challenging the redistricting process remains in federal court.
May 3rd - 9:38 am
Another day, another victory for the Senate GOP.
This time in the realm of redistricting.
The Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that the Republicans’ creation of a 63rd seat – a move the Democrats insist was motivated solely by the GOP’s desire to maintain the majority – is indeed constitutional, despite the fact that they employed two different methods for determining representation.
The court writes:
“We find that petitioners have failed to satisfy their heavy burden of establishing the unconstitutionality of this legislation and we therefore affirm.”
“…It is not our task to address the wisdom of the methods employed by the Legislature in accomplishing their constitutional mandate.”
“Rather, here, we consider only whether the methods chosen amount to “a gross and deliberate violation of the plainintent of the Constitution and a disregard of its spirit and thepurpose for which express limitations are included therein.”
“…Therefore, despite petitioners’ assertions, we cannot say that consistent application of one method of calculation is required, given the Constitution’s silence on this issue and our recognition that the Legislature must be accorded a measure of discretion in these matters.”
Update: Senate Democrats issued a statement saying they hold out hope the redistricting plan will be tossed out through their final legal challenge:
“While we are disappointed with today’s decision, we are hopeful that remaining legal challenges will overturn the unfair State Senate maps,” said spokesman Mike Murphy. “In any event, Senate Democrats remain confident that even if the existing gerrymandered maps are ultimately upheld, Democrats will gain seats and retake the majority in the State Senate this November.”