In mid- 2010 when State Republicans were not sure how the power pendulum would swing in New York State’s upper house the Senate GOP, lead by Dean Skelos, gave their support for the immediate creation of an independent redistricting commission and progressives saw a huge victory for government reform within reach. However after capturing the majority, those same politicians that cried for transparency proved that their words were as fragile as the paper the pledges they made were printed on and slowly back peddled away after realizing how heavily gerrymandered their districts had to be drawn to get in the position they were. They were further dissuaded to follow through once realizing that their majority was only possible by altering lines to reflect inflated population totals created by counting prisoners in upstate counties where they are incarcerated instead of in the communities where they came from and will most likely return to (an error thankfully corrected with a law eliminating prison gerrymandering in 2010). Some analysts suggested that they could lose up to seven seats if the lines were drawn to reflect this new reality. So after months of stalling the GOP surprised no one and instead moved along with the same old legislative road show we’ve seen over and over again.
Despite the set backs and energized by Governor Cuomo’s promise to veto any partisan maps that are put on his desk , advocates have refused to be defeated and instead have taken the debate to LATFOR by organizing people to show up to public hearings being held by the legislative taskforce all across the state. They are asking people to give testimonies in their own words stating why they believe “one man, one vote” shouldn’t be manipulated for any elected official’s political gain. The taskforce has already had hearings in Queens and the Bronx with Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island being scheduled for next week.
Manhattan Young Democrats will be participating and are asking anyone who is interested and available to come to the Manhattan hearing on Wednesday September 21st @ 250 Broadway, 9:30am. Please email [email protected] so you can receive information about where to meet that morning. (Its recommended that you call 212-618-1101 ahead of time to reserve a speaking spot).
Testimonies do not have to be long or elaborate (though preparing something on paper for yourself is always a good thing) – you can simply just say why you believe your neighborhood, your borough, your city or your state deserves a process that isn’t warped by individual ambitions or the casting aside of your community’s geographical, socioeconomic or cultural integrity to meet electoral probability targets. Redistricting should be about providing fair representation to the people they affect. No more, no less.
If you have any questions or would like to get more information on the work being done to make fair maps a reality in New York visit the ReShape NY coalition at www.reshapeny.org or the Senate Democrat’s site at www.passthepledge.com