NY redistricting commissions obscenely partisan maps defy will of voters (Guest Opinion by Mark Braiman) – syracuse.com

Posted: September 20, 2021 at 9:32 am

Mark Braiman, of Cazenovia, is treasurer of Madison County Libertarians.

Here is a sure-fire recipe for short-circuiting the open redistricting process New York voters demanded with a 2014 constitutional amendment. Start with a shift of New Yorks primaries from September to June; add a pandemic that delayed 2020 Census results by several months; and toss into the mix a partisan deadlock on the Independent Redistricting Commission. With the process now under extreme time pressure, the unforeseen consequence will likely be the states three top state politicians sitting in a room somewhere to doodle out the final maps a few days before legislative approval; or else a federal court doing it all on its own, without any input from the states politicians or voters.

New York Democrats feel an urgent need to engage in pre-emptive gerrymandering to counter what will happen in red states. This is unappealing behavior but seems inevitable. I am nevertheless greatly irritated that this national gerrymandering war impacts me directly, in the form of the Democratic IRC members proposed sea-serpent-shaped Central New York district extending from Tompkins County to Utica, with a neck through northern Madison County. This would be the first time in its 215-year history for Madison County to be divided between Congressional districts. My home is so close to the obnoxiously arbitrary boundary, it will take a lot of scrutiny before I can discern which side I live on.

Forcing incumbent Republican Reps. John Katko and Claudia Tenney into the same district could be accomplished without dividing my county or any county at all. The combined 2020 populations of Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties is 776,657. This is almost exactly the ideal district size of 776,971 (1/26 of the state population). Drawing a new congressional district from just these three counties would satisfy the Democrats urge to force Tenney (Oneida County) and Katko (Onondaga County) to compete against each other, without dismembering Madison or other counties. This can furthermore be done without forcing any other anomalies in the surrounding districts, as can be mathematically proven. (See map for Upstate Congressional Districts that I have just proposed to the IRC at MarkBraiman.com). This map keeps every NY county undivided between Congressional districts, excepting of course the nine over 776,971 in size.

The Democrats on the IRC have also proposed obscenely gerrymandered New York Senate districts for Madison and Onondaga Counties. In their map, Madison is one of the few lucky small Upstate counties that escapes being divided into multiple Senate districts. However, it is once again thrown in with a motley collection of barely contiguous Onondaga County towns, henceforth to bear the appearance of a grotesque bobcat, curled almost all the way around the city of Syracuse in an act of animalistic self-grooming.

Speaking of animalistic behavior, the Republican members of the IRC have responded with a map that is just as obnoxiously partisan, despite featuring much simpler-shaped state Senate districts for Madison and Onondaga Counties. Their map takes Madison County entirely out of Sen. Rachel Mays Syracuse district entirely reasonable but puts her and fellow incumbent Democratic Sen. John Mannion into a single elongated district not so reasonable. In the process, the Republicans propose to split Onondaga County into four distinct Senate districts. None of these are contained entirely within Onondaga County, despite it having a population 1.5 times the ideal State Senate district size of 320,655. Could the two nonpartisan members of the IRC have the integrity to stand up and say, A plague on both your houses!?

In sum, both Democratic and Republican wings of the IRC have put raw partisan self-interests over the reasonable and constitutionally mandated goal of keeping small counties intact wherever possible. The New York Constitution, Article IV, section 4, paragraph (c)(6) states clearly: The requirements that senate districts not divide counties or towns ... shall remain in effect. These requirements have been part of our state Constitution for nearly 250 years, but over the past half-century have increasingly been breached for partisan purposes.

Dividing smaller Upstate counties between multiple congressional and legislative districts puts unnecessary burdens on voters, to figure out what races they are voting in. It thereby alienates us further from the electoral process. It also burdens these small counties Boards of Elections, by unnecessarily increasing the number of races they have to count.

More important, the ongoing violation of constitutional districting provisions since the 1970s has weakened the voices of local leaders in state government. It has likely contributed to the growth of state mandates on counties and other local governments, for example the requirement for counties to fund Medicaid using property taxes.

Whatever the need may be to divide large Downstate New York counties and cities among multiple districts in order to keep these districts nearly equal in size, this need is not present for smaller Upstate jurisdictions, as my math shows. This keeps every Upstate city, village, and town undivided , as well as all 49 of the counties with a 2020 population under 320,655. It also follows another key precept of fairness to all counties, by guaranteeing each of the other six larger counties north of New York City (including Onondaga) at least one core Senate district entirely within the county. It even manages to do all this without forcing Sens. May and Mannion, who live barely five miles apart, into the same Senate district.

Also in Opinion: Editorial cartoons for Sept. 19, 2021: Gen. Milleys back channel, Bidens Covid mandate, California recall

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NY redistricting commissions obscenely partisan maps defy will of voters (Guest Opinion by Mark Braiman) - syracuse.com

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