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From The “Times Union”: Goo-goos Say ‘Can’ The Current Redistricting Plan

by Rick Karlin for The Times Union

A trio of good government groups is urging voters to say “no’’ to a heretofore little known Constitutional amendment coming up on the November ballot which would make permanent what they say is a self-serving system of legislative redistricting that was agreed to in 2012.

“We’re calling for voters to reject the proposed amendment in November,” said NYPIRG’s Blair Horner who along with Common Cause’s Susan Lerner and Effective NY’s Jesse Laymon just held a press conference excoriating the redistricting plan which they say puts the process in control of incumbent lawmakers and has only continued what they say are absurd examples of gerrymandering or the drawing of districts to fit the needs of officeholders.

To drive home their point, they offered up maps, which appear to go to extremes to either incorporate Democratic or Republican enclaves or to exclude or even encircle blocs of voters that might be unfriendly to a given lawmakers, be it a minority neighborhood or one that tends to vote Republican.

The redistricting story in New York is nothing new, although the absurd gyrations under which some maps are drawn seem to get worse over time.

Some of the examples: Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein’s 34th District appears to encircle but not include a big chunk of his home borough, the Bronx, while upstate GOP Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney has a district that runs in a sliver from near Utica to Orange County (an exurb of New York City) and takes more than 3 hours to drive through.

How they ask, does districts like this adhere to the constitutional requirements that they be compact and similar in nature?

Buffalo area-Senator Mark Grisanti’s 60th district runs along the shore of Lake Erie and even cross a body of water in order to cover Republican leaning suburbs while artfully dodging the heavily Democratic city of Buffalo.

As repetitive as this story may be there are some new twists — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s primary opponent from the left, Zephyr Teachout is criticizing his support of the plan, and Horner says they’ll be closely watching the state Board of Elections which in the next few weeks is supposed to offer preliminary language for the amendment that voters will decide on.

Harking back to what they said was language that was rigged to evoke a “yes” vote on casinos and which came so late as to obviate a legal challenge, Horner and others will watching that closely, which could mean some interesting news later this summer.

The good government folks may have suffered something of a loss in recent weeks though, with a federal court last month rejecting a civil rights suit that contended the redistrict violates the Equal Protection clause.

Common Cause’s Lerner said it was unclear if there would be an appeal — they typically take a lot of time and money.
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