No More Gerrymandering

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If the redrawn state Senate district lines are adopted, two of Queens’ most powerful voices in Albany will have to run against each other in a primary if they want to stay in office. For this and other reasons, the lines should not be approved.

Sens. Toby Stavisky and Tony Avella have joined the chorus of Queens legislators denouncing the new boundaries. Under the proposed lines, Stavisky’s home is no longer in the 16th District, which she has represented since 1999. Both senators enjoy support in what have been their districts.

The new lines are even more ridiculous than the ones that exist. These districts are some of the most contorted in the state. At some points, they are barely contiguous, a requirement under state law.

The new boundaries were drawn by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. The redistricting happens every 10 years after the census to reflect shifts in the population.

In a politicized process, the majority party in the Senate attempts to redraw the line in a manner that will increase its political power. It is called gerrymandering and politicians have been doing it for at least 200 years.

The Republicans’ slim majority in the Senate appears be trying to create as much infighting as possible in the Queens Democratic Party by pitting senators like Avella and Stavisky in eastern Queens and Sens. Jose Peralta and Michael Gianaris in the west against each other.

The goal, say critics, is to force the Democrats to spend campaign funds on costly primaries.

Stavisky maintains “you’ve got to have districts that are compact, contiguous and there should be a common thread.”

To his credit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised at an event in Syracuse that he would veto boundaries not drawn by an independent commission.

“My position is crystal clear,” he said. “It has been for a long time. I said during the campaign, when I was first running, that we have to stop the gerrymandering and that I support an independent commission so we have a non-partisan redistricting plan. That’s what this has been all about from Day 1 and it’s something I’m going to pursue.”

Posted 12:00 am, February 25, 2012
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