Azzopardi ‘Sets The Record Straight on Redistricting’
With tight races for congress, the state legislature, and yes, even the governor’s office, some Albany politicians have already started to point fingers and deflect blame.
One wild conspiracy that has been pushed, most recently in a particularly one-sided screed in Slate, was that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was somehow single handedly responsible for the redistricting debacle that manifested this year.
An even handed review of the facts tells a very different tale.
Early in his tenure, Governor Cuomo did work with the state’s leading good government groups to reform New York’s redistricting process from one wrought with gerrymandering to a more independent process that served the people. This policy change was supported at the time by 58% of all New Yorkers and 58% of democrats. Indeed, this work resulted in a proposed Constitutional Amendment that was endorsed by the Brennan Center, Citizens Union, and The League of Women Voters.
The proposal did not unilaterally become law, as some would like you to believe. Rather, it was the result of an agreement reached between Governor Cuomo, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly and the Republican Majority Leader of the State Senate. The Redistricting Amendment was then passed, not once, but twice by the New York State Legislature. In fact, in 2013, the amendment passed the State Senate with 68% and the Assembly by a whopping 90%.
In order for the Redistricting Amendment to be codified in the State Constitution, the people of the state had to affirmatively vote for it — and they did so resoundingly in 2014, passing the amendment by 58%.
Last year, even before the Commission began the process outlined in the Constitution , the legislature attempted to water down the process and shift power back to the legislature and away from the independent commission.
That, however, required another change in the State Constitution – which was resoundingly rejected by New Yorkers by a margin of 54-45%.
Instead of listening to the will of the people, the Legislature instead passed these failed amendments as bills and circumvented the constitution.
A lawsuit, supported, in part, by the good government group League of Women Voters, was filed and the courts found that the process outlined in the Constitution wasn’t followed and, as a result, the Congressional and State Senate district lines were subsequently thrown out.
It is not my job to defend the Court of Appeals, but I am happy to point out some facts.
The court is made up of 6 Democrats, and 1 lone Republican, all of whom were confirmed by Democratic and Republican members of the State Senate after extensive public hearings and vetting by the members.
As a matter of fact, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore was confirmed unanimously, including all 31 Democrats.
They are supposed to be a non-political body tasked with upholding the constitution. Asking or expecting them to disregard this task would invite the same type of ugly politics into the judicial branch that we are seeing play out on the national level with disastrous results.
Whether you agree with the Court of Appeals or not, those looking for someone to blame might want to remember the history — and maybe look in the mirror.
Rich Azzopardi, Founder & Principal Bulldog Strategies. Former Senior Advisor & Director of Communications for Governor Cuomo