The NY Times Covers-Up the Real Victims of Albany’s Gerrymandering: New Yorkers
By Gary Tilzer
Gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or elected official.
The NY Times headline “How N.Y. Democrats Lost A Critical Redistricting Battle,” lays bare the paper’s contempt for the NY voters and the condition of the local and state governments from their home state. To protect their political allies The Times could care less that New Yorkers voted twice in the last decade for independent non-political redistricting. The damage of political redistricting to NY’s already disconnected dysfunctional governments is being ignored by the paper of record. It seems not to matter to this generation of the paper’s leaders that hundreds of thousands of long-time New Yorkers and businesses have left the city because they believed nobody was in charge and have lost faith in the city’s leaders’ ability to fix major problems, like homelessness.
A.G. Sulzberger, Dean Baquet, and other of the paper’s leaders need to ask themselves why Albany’s ignoring the voter’s desire for independent redistricting is not important to the paper they run. On the practical side Mayor Adams needs Albany legislators who listen to the majority of New Yorkers who want increased public safety, not politicians who can ignore the will of the voters because gerrymandering has given them safe districts, lifetime jobs. Sulzberger, do New Yorkers deserve a properly run election system, which is not manipulated by political insiders? Baquet, do you think any fair political observers think the Republican or the State’s Court of Appeals is responsible for turning NY’s election system into a mess?
The Times spins falsely to accuse the Republicans members of the Independent Redistricting Commission of intentionally not submitting a second set of redistricting maps required by the State’s Constitution, to force the courts to throw out the supermajority democratic lines. The Court of Appeals decision throwing out the lines was because of the language in the 2014 NY Constitution Amendment that made Partisan gerrymandering illegal, not what happened at the Independent Redistricting Commission.
- The paper of record ignored both New York voters who were sick of years of political mapmaking to protect incumbents, enthusiastically enshrined it in the State Constitution language outlawing partisan gerrymandering and voted against an attempt by the supermajority in Albany in 2021 to change the language in the 2014 Constitution Amendment to again allow partisan gerrymandering in NY.
- The paper of record also ignored a sharply worded NYS Court of Appeals ruling that said, “the Legislature’s actions violated the State Constitution, accusing Democratic leaders of placing partisan interests above the will of the voters who, in 2014, voted to outlaw partisan gerrymandering. The high court ruled against the Democratic map makers because they said they acted with partisan intent.”
Breaking News: The Times is Adding to the Confusion and Distraction From the Damage Done by Gerrymandering
NY Times May 3rd, 2022: “National Democrats Make Last-Gasp Push to Keep N.Y. District Maps” The Times is the only paper to publish a lawsuit that a former Times advisor has already called frivolous. The Times reported without comment: “National Democratic leaders coupled the lawsuit 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.”
NY Times: “In a 17-page complaint, they argued that there simply was not enough time to implement the order from the State Court of Appeals for new district lines and still comply with a longstanding federal court order meant to protect the rights of Americans casting ballots from overseas. The Democrats asked a panel of federal judges to exercise its authority to effectively block the state court from enforcing its decision.”
Do the leaders of The Times understand or care about how Albany’s unconstitutional redistricting has decreased trust and confidence of New Yorkers in their government? Is there any reporter on the Times who believes that voters will now turn out for two primaries, one in June the other August? The turnout in the last two state primaries was already very low, below 15%. “Splitting primary elections between June and August will be absolutely detrimental to voter turnout and unnecessarily increase administrative burdens and costs on local boards of elections,” the League of Women Voters and Citizens Union wrote in the letter to top state officials. People running in the Assembly Primary which is scheduled to happen in 55 days have no idea if the election will happen, because of filed lawsuits to redistrict their districts. If there are additional redistricting problems or in an effort to increase turnout, can the primary be pushed back to the first Tuesday in September (like it used to be) and the General held in December to allow the proper time for military ballots to come in? Why can’t Albany, which changed the law to get indicted former Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin off the ballot, allow Military ballots to be done on-line to allow the time between the primary and general election to be shortened?
In 2014, A NY Times Editorial wrote the proposed Independent Redistricting Commission would be abused and voters should vote against it. When It was abused this year, their editorial page remained silent and their news story spined tails to offer excuses to Democratic gerrymandering that the NY Court’s exposed. The Times has not written any stories about the damage done to NY by partisan gerrymandering, even though they did in other states, like Texas and Florida. Surprisingly, The Times sister paper at least in content, the liberal Washington Post wrote an editorial opposing the NY’s gerrymandered lines. “New York’s Democratic gerrymander is egregious. The courts must intervene.”
The Court of Appeals Relied on The Intent of the Constitutional Amendment Passed by NY’s Voters to Rule the New Redistricted Lines Unconstitutional
In 2012 after a huge public backlash against redistricting lines that heavily favored incumbents, in spite of the bi-partisan elected officials drawing the lines pledge not to gerrymander districts. To quite the public outrage Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver, and Majority Leader Skelos, the “Three Men in a Room” running Albany at that time, agreed to create through a Constitutional Amendment an Independent Redistricting Commission, which they immediately schemed to fixed, so control would always be in the hands of the three men in the room. The 2022 gerrymanders got caught by language push by good government groups and reformers to include in the 2014 constitution amendment, which stated: “Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” The State’s Constitution says that the courts must intervene as a remedy for a violation of the 2014 Amendment.
Albany’s Republicans were cut-out of the redistricting process when Democrats took control of the State Senate in 2018. State Senate Zellnor Myrie who won office in 2018 as an anti-Independent Democratic Coalition (IDC) candidate pledging to clean up Albany, is now the election law chair, from the party that produces the unconstitutional Gerrymandered districts – IDC Democratic Senators kept Republicans in charge of the State Senate until 2018, when seven of their eight members were defeated.
The Gianaris One-Party Supermajority Gang Hoisted by Their Own Petard, Ignored and Protected by the Media
To best explain how the 2022 lines were allowed to be drawn unconstitutionally, come from past comments of two political grifters. Tammany Hall Boss George W. Plunkitt who defended his corruption after he got caught in 1905, offered this line to defend his actions: “I saw my opportunities and I took ’em.” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Gianaris railed against gerrymandering in 2012 when Republicans controlled redistricting in the State Senate. But Now with Democrats in control of the State Senate he led his chambers pushing for partisan redistricting lines, until a hired spokesman took over his role of talking to the press, after the courts rejected his gerrymandered lines. Senator Gianaris was against gerrymandering before he was for it. Redistricting to Politicians is like drugs are to A junkie, they don’t care what the public sees or understands. Gianaris passed the gerrymandered lines in secret without public hearing or participation by Republicans,
Does The Times Believe It’s OK to Break the Law and Mislead its Readers?
According to the latest Times article the Democrat Party’s Albany leaders decided to make a bet: They disregarded the independent commission’s Constitutional Amendment, hoping a legal change would withstand scrutiny. The paper offered red herring false charges against the weak NY Republican Party, whose only power was to make sure the supermajor in control of both the Assembly and State Senate Democratic Party map makers, follow the law:
The NY Times: “Mr. Heastie worried that constitutional language behind the new process would give incentive to Republicans to undermine the commission, according to two Democrats familiar with the discussions. When an independent redistricting commission failed to reach consensus: Republicans could try to push the mapmaking process directly to the courts, rather than the Democrat-dominated Legislator.”
The Republicans did not take the gerrymandered lines to court until after Nadler’s snake district and the Staten Island Congressional District, was connected to Park Slope. If the Independent Redistricting Commission were intentionally misused by Republicans as The Times wrote, the State’s highest court would not have taken the map drawing away from Albany Democrats. They appointed a Special Master, Jonathan Cervas to create all the Congressional and State Senate Districts. The Times ignored the court discussion which stated: “lawmakers could have asked a court to force the Independent Redistricting Commission to act, replaced uncooperative members or otherwise applied political pressure.” By taking control of redistricting, it is clear that the high court understood what any observer with common sense understood once the gerrymandered lines came out. Only the Democrats gained by deadlocking Independent Redistricting Commission, which triggered the state constitution clause that put the legislator in charge, giving the Democrat supermajority of both chambers total control of the map making.
NY Court of Appeals: New Yorkers Should Choose Their Own Elected Officials, Not the Other Way Around
The Times and the rest of the media have not reported on how incumbent protection redistricting weakens the average citizens ability to influence their elected officials, splits neighborhoods, and destroys trust in local government. There is not a single newspaper article on how redistricting can be used to fix NY’s dysfunctional government. This generation of the NY local press write or read stories on the gerrymandered shape of district or court decisions, repeating what everyone else has already reported or copy press releases from interested parties, without understanding how the districts are drawn affects how people are represented by their government, our democracy. Few in today’s media understand how the two primaries will lower voter turnout. The media won’t blame anyone by name for the gerrymandering attack on NY’s democracy, the extra primary or the $30 to $50 million the second primary will cost the NYS. The political director of NY1 Bob Hardt smirks when he talks about NY’s election mess, blaming nobody by name, while saying “NY Needs to Get its Act Together.” Hardt rented his morning host Pat Kiernan a car to drive through the Nadler district last month, has not rented Pat a row boat so he can visit the boat on a dock where four people live in Red Hook, which makes up the entire Brooklyn portion of the gerrymandered 61st Assembly District that also included tens of thousands of registered voters in both Staten Island and Lower Manhattan. Kiernan and most of today’s local reporters tell us what has happened, not the why. Canadian Pat and his local reporters class seem to have been trained by MTV’s Kurt Loder, deadpan emotionless delivery.
NY’s Old-Time Reporters Would Have Made Sure New Yorkers Understood Who Made Their Election System into A Mess
Few in the media today could imagine the anger the late columnists like Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin or Mickey Carroll would have written against Albany lawmakers if they saw redistricting that tried to steal the government away from our city and its people. The old-time reporters who understood politics protected New Yorkers, whom they had a lifelong love affair with. Breslin would have called the Albany elected officials’ bums using their names, he would have cursed out a spokesperson answering questions for an elected official. All of the reporters of their generation would conclude that if Albany leaders are willing to violate the State Constitution what other laws are they breaking. If those reporters were still around Brian Benjamin would never have been appointed Lt. Governor and de Blasio would be in jail instead of a high-end hotel. Social and the late political commentator Murray Kempton would have already authored a story congratulating the 2014 voters who made gerrymandering illegal for defeating the 2022 gerrymandering legislators. Kempton would have organized a Ticker Tape parade for the 2014 Constitution Amendment voter and the NY Court of Appeals for standing up for New Yorkers.
Has The NY Times Become Jimmy Breslin’s New Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight?
The NY Times current leadership does not understand that they are hurting NY’s business establishment they used to protect. Before the internet destroyed the newspaper advertising business real estate developers used to make millions for the paper. Today the paper needs to cater to its left-wing anti-Republican national subscription base, which is the paper’s new profit generator?
Is this generation of NY Times leadership stopping to think what another decade of incumbent protection redistricting will do to the NYC economy that is already badly damaged? Do the leaders of The Times understand that playing politics with journalism, weakens the public trust in newspapers which for generations served as an important check on government and our democracy. Even though the paper of record still maintains the power to convince the narrative driven media to follow and repeat their local coverage, it does not affect NY’s government like it used to. There has been little movement to clean up the corruption in the nonprofit homeless providers, since The Times exposed corruption in the industry, which receives billions in government funding. The loss of local influence can be tied to the fact that the paper’s endorsed candidates for mayor in a non-incumbent race have not won in a long time – David Dinkins 1989.
Years ago, The NY Times replaced local editorials with narrative biased news coverage, which included the paper’s opinions inside their local news stories. The paper of record also eliminated their watch person on the NY judiciary, Dorothy Samuels (now at the Brennan Center), which served as a check of judicial abuse, provided guidance on judicial elections, and explained to the paper’s reporters and editors the importance role the NY Judiciary has in keeping NYC government functioning properly. There is a culture of judicial abuse controlled by politicians and supervisory judges appointed by them, that is going unreported these days. Many long-time Times readers felt it was odd that the paper did not author a story when Supreme Court Judge Silvia Ash was sentenced to 15 months after she was convicted of covering up a $10 million embezzlement spree at Municipal Credit Union, a nonprofit whose board she chaired.
The NY Times, Newspaper Editorial Board and Good Government Groups Should Be Demanding Albany Create A Real Independent Redistricting Committee Bypassing Elected Officials
The Honest League of Women Voters (LWV) stood in court alongside the Republican lawyers, demanding the gerrymandering maps be ruled unconstitutional. LWV should spearhead and check the wording on a new Constitutional Amendment to make sure New Yorkers truly have an Independent Redistricting Commission, appointed by non-politicians, and only have non-political public voting members.
The leader of Common Cause NY Susan Learner called the Court of Appeals ruling on Twitter “bad and led to chaos,” which explains why her group was silent during the court cases fighting Albany’s gerrymandered districts. Learner just published a story in the NY Daily News claiming it was good government to remove the indicted former Lt Governor Benjamin from the ballot in the coming primary. In 2018 her organization under her leadership wrote: “We’re creating a more reflective democracy by fighting for fair maps and ending gerrymandering in New York. Common Cause New York works to create an independent redistricting process to ensure that voters pick their politicians, not the other way around.
The Brennan Center for Justice redistricting expert Michael Li was on TV after the Court of Appeal decision, “redistricting has a direct bearing on what matters a legislature chooses to tackle, and which to ignore.”
The Court of Appeals Redistricting Decision Left Some Constitutional Issues Unaddressed, Even Long-Time Insiders Have No Idea What’s Going to Happen
The Assembly Districts: The top judges wrote that the proposed Assembly maps, having been produced via the identical tainted process, therefore also breach the State Constitution. However, The Court of Appeals didn’t strike them down as no one had sued. Gary Greenberg an upstate gadfly is going to ask Judge McAllister, who ordered the congressional and State Senate primaries be pushed from June 28 until Aug. 23, to direct new maps and late August primaries for the Assembly — as well as move all other contests to August and re-open petitioning for them as well. The New York Young Republican Club is filing a separate lawsuit with Judge McAllister to redraw the Assembly districts. Their club president said, “The exclusion of State Assembly District maps from the special master’s redistricting efforts will subject New Yorkers to a decade of misrepresentation in state government.” For now, primaries for state Assembly races will still be held June 28, though the outcome of the legal challenges could change the date.>
On Twitter @Ali_Najmi: “All parties should just stipulate that the Assembly maps are flawed and get on the same calendar with the Special Master and get Assembly maps and elections on the same schedule.
Statewide Races Petition Requirement: Since the ballot qualification for the statewide offices is based on congressional lines, those petitions should be re-opened to follow the letter of the law. While it at first appeared that primaries for statewide offices like governor and State Comptroller had not been affected by the ruling, those contests may be called into question, after all. To qualify for the ballot, the State Board of Elections requires candidates for statewide office to collect petitions from voters in fifteen Congressional Districts. With the Congressional Districts being redrawing, no one could immediately say whether those petitions, filed weeks ago, were now invalid.
The Brooklyn Houseboat District Leaders: While everyone expected the Brooklyn’s Democrats to elect 42 members to the party’s state committee — this year the borough party wound up with 44. Why? Because, somehow, four, and only four, Brooklyn voters on a Red Hook houseboat got counted as part of a Staten Island-Manhattan Assembly district. The 61st, as drawn after the 2020 census, stretches from northern Staten Island to southern Manhattan, representing thousands of voters in each of those two boroughs, and appears to skirt Brooklyn entirely. But drill down to spreadsheets and you find a grand total of four registered Democrats in Kings County joining their 48,688 fellow Democrats. Whether by accident or on purpose, those four, in their humble boat, will elect as many delegates to the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s executive committee as the 82,691 registered Democrats who reside in the 52nd District, which incorporates Dumbo, Gowanus and Cobble Hill. The two extra Brooklyn District leaders are needed by the old Brooklyn Democratic machine headed by Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte to fight back a challenge by the highly successful Democratic Socialist of America and Working Families Party progressive machine which is running over 20 District Leaders in the borough, to take over the party. It is also interesting to note that the lawyers representing the Assembly in the Court of Appeals argued that their map makers had no outside help or agenda.
Does the Empire Strike Back? Does Cuomo Seize an Opportunity to Run Again?
Some call the former governor the new Darth Vader because he set up the Independent Redistricting Commission to fail and appointed too many conservative judges to the State Highest Courts, which ruled the redistricting unconstitutional. They claim the compromise between former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Republicans who controlled the Senate at the time, created the Independent Commission with equal numbers of Democratic and Republican appointees, was always intended to fail. Cuomo’s commission lacked clear incentives to compromise, and its work could always be overruled by the Legislature if lawmakers rejected two consecutive proposals by the body. Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, called the charges “absurd” and defended the 2014 reforms as a “national model.” He added: “If they want to blame someone for violating the process and drawing unconstitutional districts, there are plenty of mirrors in this town,” he said.