EDITORIAL: Let special master redraw flawed Assembly district lines

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

What’s that they say about insanity – it’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If that’s true, then legal efforts by state legislative leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul to reconvene the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw election district lines for the state Assembly is the definition of insanity.

The Assembly district lines drawn by the commission were determined by the courts to be the result of unconstitutional gerrymandering. But because the timing of the decision was such that an independent “special master” didn’t have time to come up with new lines, the unconstitutional Assembly district lines are still in place for the current election and will remain so until 2024.

We argued when the decision was made to keep the lines that it was unfair to voters and political candidates to leave the lines in place.

We suggested that the special master be given more time to create fairer lines by moving the date of the Assembly primary, then scheduled separately from state Senate and congressional primaries,to a single primary in mid-September.

But they didn’t listen, and the unconstitutional lines for the Assembly districts were locked in for the next two years.

Now along comes Hochul and leaders of the Democratic controlled Legislature seeking in court have the commission that produced the first disastrous lines reconvene and try to come with fair lines this time.

What makes anyone think they’re going to be able to do that, given that the factors that were in place when the unconstitutional lines were first drawn are still in place?

There’s still an opportunity for Democratic and Republican members of the commission disagree on a single set of lines, which could ultimately force the Legislature to draw the new boundaries itself once again.

Since both the Legislature and the governor’s office are still controlled by Democrats, there’s absolutely no logical reason to believe that the outcome of reconvening the independent commission will be any different than before – even if changes suggested by Hochul and the legislative leaders to avoid a deadlock are put in place.

What they need to do here is use the same process they used to redraw the lines for the state Senate and congressional districts – have an independent special master come with the new lines.

One issue with the special master drawing the Assembly district lines earlier this year was that the deadlines for the June primary vote didn’t allow enough time for public comment. Independent or minor political parties, groups advocating for social justice and organizations representing ethnic and racial groups all have a stake in the decision.

With more time available, the special master could hold several public hearings at regions around the state to ensure citizens have an opportunity to offer their views on how the lines should be drawn.

There’s no way to completely avoid politics when drawing legislative boundaries.

But going back to the process that proved to be the most political would be, well, insane.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

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