Redistricting Mess: How Albany Greed for Power Made A Broken Unfair Election System Worse
By Gary Tizler
What’s fascinating about the Congressional and State Senate district lines thrown out by the NY courts, is that blame for the unconstitutional redistricting does not exist in the world of the media. The press only offers the public coverage on what is happening: the NY state courts threw out the redistricting lines and new lines are being worked on. But they do not cover the why it happened. The media systematically refuses to explain the effect of the election mess caused by illegal actions of Albany’s lawmakers on average New Yorkers. Their silence on who attacked New York’s Democracy and the further destruction of NY’s already broken and dysfunctional government are breathtaking.
The insiders in Albany who drew up and approved the unconstitutional redistricting stand to benefit from the election chaos they caused. Yes, folks, in New York those who robbed the voters of their rights under our democratic system are our elected officials. It is they who are in violation of the law. Not only are they not sent to Rikers Island, they are the real winners. Sounds familiar?
Incumbents have access to as much money as they need to run strong campaigns, even after their district lines were thrown out. There is a shorter than normal time left after the court redraws the lines for the challengers to gain name recognition before the primary and the general election required by election law must be held. Challengers with limited access to campaign money have already spent their campaign funds for petitions now invalidated because the district they were running in were thrown out by the courts.
They will have to spend more money once their district lines are redrawn by the court, in order to petition again to get on the ballot. Some challengers who lack funding will be forced to drop out, limiting the public’s ability to use their vote to fix the dysfunctional state government in New York.
The crime issue clearly illustrates just how badly broken the New York election system actually is. According to recent polls, Albany’s incumbents who have not properly addressed, the biggest issue facing the city which is the skyrocketing crime rate. Those elected officials who voted for weak and ineffective bail changes will have easier reelections because of the shorter campaign time due to the illegal lines that they voted to pass.
Over 60% of New Yorkers want to change the bail law. Even our mayor complains that Albany does not have his back on his efforts to reduce crime.
Currently the two primaries made necessary by the Congressional and State Senate lines being thrown out will also help incumbents on the inside who drew the illegal district lines. The split in elections means that New Yorkers will be voting in the primary on June 23rd for scheduled statewide primaries, including Assembly, other local offices August 23rd for the line thrown out by the court. Two separate summer primaries will waste $30 to $50 million and puts wear and tear on voters as well as the very real possibility of depressing voter turnout, beyond the already low state election voting participation record of less than 15%, in the 2018 and 2014 governmental elections.
The Jewish Voice agrees with the good government groups the Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters, and the NY Daily News, Newsday, and the Times Union in Albany, who have said that there should not be two separate elections. The primaries should be consolidated into one primary to be held on August 23rd. We wonder why elected officials interested in improving our state government are not making a bigger issue of the separate primaries.
This is not the end of NY’s election mess that Albany put us in. On May 10th Steuben County Judge Patrick McAllister ruled that all the redistricting done by Albany, including the Assembly lines illegal, will hear lawsuits that seek to declare the Assembly lines as being unconstitutional as well. The Court of Appeals left the Assembly maps drawn undisturbed as they utilized the very same rotten process. Legally speaking, the Chief Judge said they had to — because nobody had filed suit to invalidate the Assembly lines. If Judge McAllister also rules the Assembly district unconstitutional it will place additional pressure to combine the two primary dates.
According to The NY Times the national Democratic leaders on Monday coupled a lawsuit in federal court to invalidate the State Court of Appeals decision to throw out the unconstitutional Congressional lines with a public campaign to openly pressure the state courts to alter the process for drawing the new district lines in case they do not prevail in court. The lawsuit said it was too late for the state’s highest court to throw out the unconstitutional redistricting and to proceed with the original lines.
A federal judge on Wednesday denied Democrats’ request for an emergency injunction to have New York use unconstitutional Democratic-drawn district lines for congressional elections. Then the federal judge proceeded to relentlessly mock every aspect of their request.
The Jewish Voice wonders why there has not been more media coverage of the national Democratic leaders’ effort to openly pressure the state courts to alter the process for drawing the new district lines. It is abundantly clear from the evidence just how openly uncaring and protected political insiders are in terms of increasing their power and how disconnected the public is from real power moves that affects how they are governed and how their already broken democracy functions.
The Jewish Voice warned that NY redistricting would be unconstitutional last year, Please see the article entitled “The Kabuki Dance Redistricting Incumbent Protection One-Party NY Fix is In” on the Jewish Voice web site. In December, The Jewish Voice wrote the Democrats on the Independent commission would sabotage their constitutional duty by deadlocking the bi-partisan commission that would give the power to the supermajority Democrats in control of both the Assembly and State Senate so that they can redistrict the entire state.
The Jewish Voice article stated that only the state’s courts can stop their illegal power grab. The redistricting was delayed months by the deadlocked Independent Redistricting Commission. The lawsuit of the lines did not begin until the Commission was declared deadlocked and the state legislators drew the districts and the governor signed them.
Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ruled after his court arguments on March 31st that all the redistricting was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals ruled on April 21st that the Congressional and State Senate lines were unconstitutional after the Democrats appealed Judge McAllister ruling as well as the Court of Appeals rulings.
The Jewish Voice believes that Albany will not seek to repair the New York voting system. This would include creating a real independent redistricting commission and reforming the incompetent Board of Elections until the media stops treating those that broke the election laws and the state constitution which prohibited gerrymandering the redistricting lines as blameless.
Until the public holds elected officials accountable for bad and unlawful behavior then “pay to play” politicians like former Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin and State Senator Michael Gianaris (who led the unconstitutional illegal redistricting) will continue to break the law until they get caught. Unfortunately, few do.
Sadly, our teflon elected officials are right. Their behavior suggests they can get away with almost anything. Until and if the public starts holding them accountable for their actions at the voting booth, they can.