Redistricting needs to be nonpartisan
Feb 01, 2012 | 8214 views | 0 0 comments | 187 187 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We're not really sure if we can make a better case for an independent redistricting commission than the State Senate Republicans made for us with their proposed new district lines based on the 2010 Census.

On the surface, a bipartisan group made up of elected officials and citizens - called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, or LATFOR - drew the new district lines. However, behind the scenes, it's whichever party controls the legislature that really takes control of the process, and in the State Senate that is the Republican Party.

The new district lines played all sorts of games with sitting state senators, most notably State Senator Michael Gianaris. The new district lines took a sliver of Astoria - the sliver where Gianaris lives - and attached it to the majority of the district currently represented by State Senator Jose Peralta.

The new district is nearly 60 percent Hispanic, which is, of course, bad for Gianaris on two fronts: Peralta holds the edge as far as demographics, and he has the name recognition having represented a majority of the district not only in the State Senate, but formerly in the Assembly as well.

That probably didn't have anything to do with Gianaris being the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee or the fact that he is an outspoken critic of the whole redistricting process.

Elsewhere in Queens, a new district would force incumbents Toby Ann Stavisky and Tony Avella into the same district, and the same was done with incumbent Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery in Brooklyn.

And in a real piece of forward-thinking, a new district in south Brooklyn would include the residences of current Councilman Lew Fidler and the leader of the Democratic Conference, State Senator John Sampson.

This is especially tricky because Fidler isn't even in the State Senate, but he is considered one of the favorites in a special election to replace disgraced State Senator Carl Kruger, who was recently sent to jail for extorting money. If he is indeed elected to fill the seat, in the future he would have to run against Sampson.

All of this isn't to say that we think the Democrats should be redrawing the district lines, either. Whichever party is in control of the process is, of course, going to manipulate it to its advantage.

But the excessive gerrymandering - many news outlets took great joy in imagining what animals and shapes the new districts resembled - just reinforces that fact that redistricting has to be a nonpartisan undertaking.

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