Lawsuit Seeks Reform of New York Redistricting Procedures

Nov 23, 2011 - LegalZoom News Sources
A lawsuit filed in New York City seeks to change the way the Empire State draws its election districts.

New York recently became the latest site for election law wrangling in the lead-up to the 2012 contests. On November 17, a prominent New York City law firm filed a suit on behalf of a number of registered voters, calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state lawmakers to appoint an independent Special Master to oversee the process of redrawing the state's districts.

Under the current process, the state's decennial redistricting is done by a six-member committee composed of four legislators and two non-legislators, and the complaint states this has fostered a politically self-interested approach that undermines the integrity of elections by granting unfair advantages to incumbents. According to the complaint, in 3,000 elections held in the state between 1982 and 2008, the incumbent only lost in 39 races, while the 2000 to 2010 reelection rate for incumbents was 96 percent.

The suit points out that the governor and legislators have vowed to reform the system, but the process of doing so has stalled, and the court's intervention is necessary in order to ensure that redistricting is accomplished in a fair manner in advance of the 2012 elections. Otherwise, the complaint states, those elections promise to be a "quagmire."

Arizona's Supreme Court recently ordered that the head of an independent redistricting commission be reinstated to her position after being dismissed on unsubstantiated charges of gross misconduct by the state's governor, Jan Brewer. On November 21, Brewer requested that the court reconsider its decision, the Arizona Republic reported.