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by Joseph Spector, Westchester for lohud
Democratic activist Bill Samuels urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to withdraw his support for a redistricting amendment on the November ballot, saying it wouldn’t create the independence needed in the state to draw district lines for legislative and congressional seats every 10 years.
Samuels is the latest critic of the referendum on the November ballot, which Cuomo and lawmakers said would create an independent panel to draw the district lines.
The New York Public Interest Research Group and other advocates say the state Board of Elections shouldn’t have used the word “independent” in its description of a new panel that will draw the districts. The plan would create a new board to draw district lines each decade, made up of eight members appointed by legislative leaders and another two selected by the other appointees.
“During a series of meetings this spring, I personally told Larry Schwartz and other Cuomo aides that the governor needs to break from Republicans on redistricting and show a firm commitment to a Democratic State Senate. They haven’t listened, and now I am going public with this campaign,” said Samuels, who briefly considered running for lieutenant governor then said he’d focus on redistricting reform.
Samuels filed a Freedom of Information request seeking communication from Jan. 1 through Aug. 15 between commissioners of the state Board of Elections and the governor’s office about the use of the word “independent” the referendum.
The state Board of Elections earlier this month approved a one-paragraph explanation that will be used on each ballot. It describes the panel as “independent,” but also acknowledges that lawmakers may only amend its proposal if “the commission’s plan is rejected twice by the legislature.”
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