Between the unlimited money for political campaigns and the gerrymandering of voting districts, it is pretty clear that the system is rigged.
It will be hard to persuade us otherwise.
So, when the Supreme Court ruled last month it could not intervene in the rampant gerrymandering enacted by state legislatures around the country, we were concerned.
Actually, it was much worse than that. We were devastated.
Considering that Democrats — mostly from New York City — currently rule both chambers of state government in Albany, we believed the future for us in upstate New York was so bleak that even Betty Little might have a hard time getting re-elected.
But we forgot about something.
Five years ago, New York voters passed a referendum to establish the Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw district lines as needed after the 2020 census. It takes that responsibility out of the hands of the Legislature.
The Supreme Court decision will have no impact on us.
Results from the 2020 census are expected to show that New York has lost as many as 1 million residents since 2010. The state is expected to lose at least one — and maybe two — of its 27 congressional seats. Assembly and Senate districts will also have to be adjusted.
After the 2010 census, there was a great deal of controversy about how the state Senate districts were drawn with a prevailing criticism that Senate districts were drawn to favor Republicans.
And for most of the last decade, Republicans held the Senate.
The fear is that Democrats will look at this as payback time.
We all should agree that redistricting should not favor one party over another, but considering Albany’s history, we fear our Legislature will find a way to muck it up.
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Each of the four legislative leaders gets to appoint two members each to the commission, but here is the important part to remember. Restrictions have been placed so the appointees are prohibited from being anyone who has been a state legislator in the past three years, a congressional representative, a statewide elected official, a legislative or state employee, lobbyist or political party chair.
That still leaves a lot of partisan people, but it is a start.
After the original eight members are chosen, the panel will vote to add two additional members to the 10-person commission.
This process won’t commence until 2021, after the census is completed.
The ultimate goal here is that the party in power will not exploit its advantage. The newly drawn districts will eventually have to be approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature — if each party rules one house — but if one party controls both houses, (as the Democrats do in New York now) a two-thirds majority vote is needed to make it official.
That gives the commission an incentive to get it right the first time.
We’re encouraged on one hand, petrified on the other.
Since the recent Supreme Court decision, we’re glad New York is one of the states trying to level the political playing field.
Ultimately, what will determine whether this works is the quality of the representatives chosen and whether they have any character.
Which raises the real question: Are there 10 honest people left in New York politics?
We’re hoping that the commission members have little background in state government. Perhaps those in the academic world could be approached, or executives of polling companies or computer programmers who are used to crunching numbers and identifying trends without worrying about who wins and loses.
We’re told that redistricting can be done with a touch of a button with the right computer software. We are hoping that is the case in New York.
We’re hoping it opens a new era where upstate has a chance to be heard over the roar from New York City.