When the Census forms arrive every 10 years, it is important to fill it out because legislative district lines are based upon the population. Every decade it is a contentious process, and in the past the lines were redrawn in such a way to protect incumbent office-holders.
In fact, there is currently a bill before the Legislature that would establish an independent commission to propose boundary lines for New York’s Congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts. The proposal would be subject to approval by the state Legislature, of course, but the commission would be given the task of drawing district boundaries every 10 years following the Census. It is similar in intention to what former Mayor Ed Koch is seeking, to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislators who have vested interests and put it in the hands of people who are not seeking to benefit from the change.
Fourteen other state senators and I support an independent redistricting commission — including my fellow New York City Sens. Diane Savino, Eric Schneiderman, Daniel Squadron, Thomas Duane, Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano.
The legislation calls for creation of a nominating body comprising eight members, one each appointed by the presiding judge of the court of appeals, attorney general, state comptroller, governor, and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and Assembly. This group of eight would then draw up a list of 40 nominees from which the committee members would be selected. We are making every effort to keep the process as nonpartisan as possible.
The new boundaries are to be drawn according to a set of principles and guidelines that do not exclude minority party voters, and align district lines as much as possible with local boundaries and community character. Compare that ideal with current district lines, where communities such as Forest Hills and Rego Park are represented by four state senators and four Assembly members; or my own district which stretches in an X through Queens from the East River to the Cross Island Parkway. In the district adjacent to mine, College Point is connected to Little Neck by the mean high water mark of the East River. Presumably that means that at low tide, the district is not contiguous.
We who support nonpartisan redistricting understand that there would be no possibility of redrawing to maximize the vote in anyone’s favor. But I support transparency in the process and I want the vote to reflect the community’s will.