New York Redistricting Commission Amendment, Proposal 1 (2014)

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Proposal 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:New York Constitution
Referred by:New York Legislature
Topic:Redistricting
Status:Approved Approveda
2014 measures
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November 4
Proposal 1Approveda
Proposal 2Approveda
Proposal 3Approveda
Endorsements

The New York Redistricting Commission Amendment, Proposal 1 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of New York as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure was designed to create a redistricting commission to establish state senate, assembly and congressional districts.[1]

Proposal 1's redistricting commission is composed of ten members:[1]

The commission is required to hold 12 public hearings during the process of redistricting.

If the legislature were to reject the commission’s plan twice, the legislature would amend the commission’s plan as deemed necessary.

The amendment was primarily sponsored in the New York Assembly by House Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-65) as A 2086 and in the New York Senate by Senate Co-President Dean Skelos (R-9) as S 2107.[1][2]

There was a debate as to whether the redistricting commission was better described as "independent" or "bipartisan." On September 17, 2014, Judge Patrick McGrath ruled in Lieb vs. Walsh that the word "independent" must be struck from the ballot measure's language.[3]

Election results


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This ballot measure article has preliminary election results. Certified election results will be added as soon as they are made available by the state or county election office. The following totals are as of 99 percent of precincts reporting.

 New York Proposal 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,614,462 57.40%
No1,198,03742.60%

Election results via: New York Board of Elections

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text appeared as follows:[4]

Revising State’s Redistricting Procedure

The proposed amendment to sections 4 and 5 and addition of new section 5-b to Article 3 of the State Constitution revises the redistricting procedure for state legislative and congressional districts. The proposed amendment establishes a redistricting commission every 10 years beginning in 2020, with two members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders and two members selected by the eight legislative appointees; prohibits legislators and other elected officials from serving as commissioners; establishes principles to be used in creating districts; requires the commission to hold public hearings on proposed redistricting plans; subjects the commission’s redistricting plan to legislative enactment; provides that the legislature may only amend the redistricting plan according to the established principles if the commission’s plan is rejected twice by the legislature; provides for expedited court review of a challenged redistricting plan; and provides for funding and bipartisan staff to work for the commission. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?[5]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article III, New York Constitution

The measure amended Sections 4 and 5 of Article III of the New York Constitution.[1]

The amendment’s full text can be read here.

Background

See also: Redistricting in New York

Prior to this measure, the state legislature was responsible for redistricting. While there was a commission on redistricting, it only acted in an advisory role. The final deal needed to be approved by the Department of Justice.[6]

The advisory commission, known as the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), was composed of six individuals:[7]

  • One legislator selected by Assembly Majority Leader
  • One legislator selected by Senate Majority Leader
  • One citizen member selected by the Assembly Majority Leader
  • One citizen member selected by the Senate Majority Leader.
  • One member selected by Senate Minority Leader.
  • One member selected by Assembly Minority Leader

The 2011-12 state budget included $1.5 million designated for LATFOR.[8]

Support

New York 2014 Proposal 1 Vote Yes for Progress logo.png

The campaign in support of the amendment was led by Vote Yes for Progress.[9]

The measure was sponsored in the New York Legislature by Rep. Sheldon Silver (D-65) and Sen. Dean Skelos (R-9).

Supporters

Officials

Assembly

The following state assembly members voted to place the amendment on the ballot:[1]

Note: A yes vote on the amendment merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in Proposal 1.
Senate

The following state senators voted to place the amendment on the ballot:[2]

Note: A yes vote on the amendment merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in Proposal 1.

Organizations

  • League of Women Voters of New York[11]
  • Citizens Union[11]

Arguments


A Citizens Union video, titled "Vote YES Prop 1: Redistricting Reform Now."

Vote Yes for Progress, the organization who led the campaign in support of Proposal 1, listed the following five reasons to vote "yes" on the amendment:

1. TO END THE SELF-INTERESTED PROCESS OF LEGISLATORS DRAWING THEIR OWN LINES

No longer will legislators be able to pick their constituents and have sole authority to draw their own lines.

2. TO CREATE A POLITICALLY BALANCED AND INDEPENDENT COMMISSION, LIMITING THE ABILITY OF THE LEGISLATURE TO DRAW ITS OWN MAPS

The commission consists of ten members with significant bans on who can serve. The commission has:

Equal representation from each of the four legislative leaders, with 2 additional members not affiliated with either major party appointed by the commission members.
NO legislators, lobbyists or other political figures serving as commissioners.

The state legislature can only step in to amend plans should it TWICE reject the independent commission’s plans, and then can only do so according to new rules established in the state constitution and by no more than 2 percent of the population of any district, according to a new law that was passed with the amendment.

3. TO ESTABLISH NEW RULES THAT REMOVE PARTISAN SCHEMING AND CREATE IMPARTIALITY

All that the current rules require is that districts be contiguous and compact, and these standards are vague. Additional rules in the amendment:

End “partisan gerrymandering” by requiring that districts not be drawn to favor or disfavor any incumbents, particular candidates (including challengers) or political parties.
Protect communities of interest and racial and language and minority groups by codifying existing national Voting Rights Act language in the state constitution.

4. TO CREATE A FAIR AND PUBLIC PROCESS

Any plan approved by the ten-member commission must have a supermajority of seven members vote in favor, ensuring balance and cooperation. Additional controls are in place to require a higher threshold for approval in the legislature should one party control both houses. The amendment also requires that the commission release data, maps and information to the public to allow it to develop alternative proposals, and requires the holding of public hearings throughout the state.

5. THIS IS A RARE OPPORTUNITY FOR NEW YORKERS TO REMOVE REDISTRICTING POWER FROM THE LEGISLATURE. THOUGH NOT PERFECT, THE AMENDMENT IMPROVES THE CURRENT SYSTEM AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS CAN BE MADE

For more than fifty years, the New York State legislature has exclusively controlled the drawing of legislative maps. Ample opportunities have been squandered to reform the process, regardless of which party controlled the state senate. If this amendment is rejected, it is highly unlikely the legislature will pass any other amendment to reform the process. The amendment also provides a new floor from which additional statutory reforms can be enacted in the future. [5]

—Vote Yes for Progress, [12]

The New York City 2014 Voter Guide included arguments in favor and in opposition to Proposal 1. The following were the guide's arguments in favor:

  • The proposed commission will be more independent than the current model because state and federal legislators, legislators’ staff, and registered lobbyists are prohibited from serving as members.
  • The amendment will discourage gerrymandering because the commission and the legislature are required to follow common principles that would prohibit drawing district lines that abridge the rights of racial or language minority voters, or lines that favor or disfavor incumbents, would be required to consider maintaining the cores of pre-existing districts, political subdivisions, and communities of interest, and would be required to create districts of contiguous territory that are as compact as practicable. The courts can use these principles to evaluate any plan and throw it out if necessary.
  • The amendment will ensure that the majority and minority parties will be forced to work toward consensus to approve senior staff and any redistricting plan.
  • The proposed commission will limit partisanship because membership will be equally balanced between the majority and minority parties in the legislature, and will also include two members who are not enrolled in either of the two major parties.
  • The current system doesn’t work, and some improvement is far better than none at all. The legislature has not addressed this issue in fifty years. If we don’t approve this compromise, it will be many years before we get another chance.[5]

—New York City 2014 Voter Guide[13]

Other arguments in support of the amendment included:

  • Dick Dadey of Citizens Union argued, "Prop 1 will ban partisan gerrymandering by outlawing the drawing of legislative maps for political advantage, positioning New York as a national leader on redistricting reform. Currently, this powerful constitutional ban exists in only four states. The amendment will strip state legislators of their long unchecked redistricting power by creating a politically balanced commission that will divide the state into fair districts. This commission will be banned from drawing districts to favor any incumbents, candidates or parties and will be required to provide a thorough explanation of any districts that are not of equal population size."[14]

Campaign contributions

As of October 27, 2014, Citizens Union had received $21,850 in contributions.[15]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Citizens Union of the City of New York $21,850 $0.00
Total $21,850 $0.00

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
Robert Kaufman $3,250
Lorna Goodman $2,500
Gail Erickson $1,500
Sterling Equities $1,313
Curtis Cole $1,125

Opposition

Opponents

Officials

Assembly

The following state assembly members voted against placing the amendment on the ballot:[1]

Senate

The following state senators voted against placing the amendment on the ballot:[2]

Organizations

  • Common Cause New York[16]
  • New York Public Interest Research Group[10]
  • EffectiveNY
  • Village Independent Democrats[17]

Individuals

Arguments

Blair Horner, NYPIRG's legislative director, lambasted Proposal 1 as a "fake reform" and called on New Yorkers to vote "No." He said:

...Vote NO not because you think the state’s redistricting system is fine – it’s far from it – but vote NO to send a clear message to Albany: You are sick of fake reforms...

Much has been made that Proposal 1 creates a new redistricting commission and that there are new standards for membership on the proposed redistricting Commission. But will that Commission be truly independent? Proposal 1 lets the Legislature choose the members of the redistricting commission. And here’s the kicker: If these political appointees miraculously act independently, Proposal 1 allows the Legislature to reject their plan and replace it with their own!...

But it gets worse. For the first time in New York state history, future mapmakers will have to consider the core of existing legislative districts when drawing future district lines. Despite all you will hear about how Proposal 1 prohibits gerrymandering, it requires future mapmakers to rely on the current gerrymandered districts when future districts are drawn. Currently, there is no such requirement in the state Constitution. Theoretically, mapmakers can start from scratch when drawing district lines. Proposal 1 forces future mapmakers to rely on the “core” of existing districts (an undefined term) to draw future maps.

So, Proposal 1 not only is a scheme that seeks to bamboozle the public with the status quo merely masquerading as reform, it actually makes the current situation worse!

New York voters are faced with two lousy choices: keep the awful status quo or approve a so-called reform that makes matters worse.

But a vote NO helps keep the pressure on Albany. The next redistricting is not due until 2022, which gives the governor and the Legislature plenty of time to get it right.[5]

—Blair Horner[21]

The New York City 2014 Voter Guide included arguments in favor and in opposition to Proposal 1. The following were the guide's arguments in opposition:

  • The commission will not be independent because the state legislature chooses eight of the ten members and will control their votes. Along with the governor, the legislature has final say over any redistricting plan. The legislature can even draw up its own plan if it rejects the commission’s plan twice.
  • The amendment will not end incumbent-friendly gerrymandering. In drawing district lines, the commission and the legislature are required to consider maintaining the cores of pre-existing districts and communities of interest. This sounds like the amendment would protect incumbents’ districts. This will hardly produce an impartial and independent redistricting plan.
  • The amendment creates a complicated partisan voting system for hiring senior staff and approving a redistricting plan, which gives the minority party the power to veto the will of the majority. The amendment also requires the votes of particular political appointees for an approval. If the voting system were truly impartial it would require the votes of the unaffiliated members instead, for example to break ties.
  • The commission will not be effective because it will have an even number of members with equal representation from the two major parties. This will lead to gridlock. A deadlock on the commission empowers the legislature to create its own plan.
  • The current system is lousy, but this proposal will make things worse. Even its proponents admit it has flaws. In fact, it is a dangerous and counterfeit reform. If approved, it will set in stone a system of political control of redistricting in our state constitution rather than creating a truly independent redistricting process. Changing it or improving it will be extremely difficult. The legislature can and should come up with a better plan before the next redistricting in 2022.[5]

—New York City 2014 Voter Guide[13]

Other arguments against the amendment included:

  • Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner argued, “The proposed constitutional amendment sets up a hyperpartisan, expensive and ineffective structure for redistricting. Ultimately this is not an independent process, and the voters lose.”[16] Elsewhere, she said, "We should not be memorializing partisan control of redistricting — this requires it. There is a set of voting rules that is dependent on who is in the majority of either house. And the criteria for redistricting are deliberately structured so they can do anything they want to with the maps and not provide guidance for the courts. They don’t have to consciously discriminate. They can just ‘respect the cores of existing districts."[18]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of New York ballot measures, 2014

Opposition

  • Adirondack Daily Enterprise said, "We agree with McGrath’s ruling. New York state’s democracy needs more independence from both of its major political parties than proposition No. 1 seems capable of providing. Voters hungry for any kind of change in Albany may approve the measure, but at least they won’t do so under any false belief the ballot initiative is providing an independent reform."[22]
  • Albany Times Union said, "The measure’s supporters claim it will turn redistricting over to an independent commission. But as surely as a puppet doesn’t act independently from its unseen puppeteer, this commission would be a tool of the legislature that created it. And which wrote loopholes into it big enough to drag a gerrymandered district through… If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature have their way, politicians will be even more empowered than they are now to manipulate the political maps, and essentially pick who votes for them."[23]
  • The Journal News said, "Voters should hold out for a redistricting plan that truly serves democracy, not one that could – or could not – provide a path to real reform."[24]
  • Newsday said, "Iowa and California are states where independent commissions draw the boundaries. We don't believe the best argument made in favor of the amendment: "It's the best we can hope for." New York deserves a truly independent redistricting process. Vote no on proposal No. 1."[25]
  • New York Times said, "The net result would be to reinforce, not reform, a system that virtually guarantees job security for incumbents and discourages competition."[26]
  • The Post-Standard said, "Question: When does the word “independent” mean ”controlled by the same old party leaders”? Answer: When it comes in front of “redistricting commission”… Voters have one more chance to defeat this ill-conceived, undemocratic and partisan constitutional amendment."[27]
  • Times Herald-Record said, "The amendment would take those broken promises and make them part of the Constitution. Better to live with the imperfect procedures we have now and hope that they might change some day than to alter the Constitution and ensure that they never will."[28]

Other opinions

  • Auburn Citizen called for neutral ballot language, saying, "Regardless of whether one agrees with the substance of a particular referendum, the ballot language must honestly describe the proposed amendment without attempting to influence its passage or defeat. The Board of Elections must insist on neutral language for the redistricting proposition."[29]
  • The Daily News criticized the use of "independent" in the text of the measure, saying, "Could members of the Cuomo administration be up to the same mischief they engaged in last year when seeking permission to expand legalized gambling?"[30]

Controversies

Independent vs. bipartisan

Leading up to the New York Board of Election's August 1 adoption of Proposal 1's ballot language, Common Cause, New York Public Interest Research Group, EffectiveNY and Make the Road New York called on the board to adopt "neutral language." They offered their own draft:

The proposed amendment to Article 3 of the Constitution would allow New York State’s legislative leaders to appoint a bipartisan commission to establish new state legislative and congressional district lines every 10 years pursuant to state criteria with final approval by the Legislature. Shall the amendment be approved?

[5]

—Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group, EffectiveNY and Make the Road New York, [31]

Jesse Laymon, executive director of EffectiveNY, said he worried that the board would approve language that mirrored the rosy language of 2013's Proposal 1, which stirred a prominent controversy. He continued, "This year’s amendment on redistricting must not be a repeat."[31]

Following the board's adoption of language on August 1, 2014, the involved groups stated their opposition to the measure's wording, specifically references to the commission as "independent."

Common Cause and New York Public Interest Research Group said the ballot question should refer to the proposed redistricting commission as "bipartisan," not "independent," since the commission would be "chosen by self-interested legislative leaders."[32] Blair Horner, NYPIRG's legislative director, argued, "What rankles the most in the way that the Board of Elections drafted the language is the description of the new proposed redistricting commission as being independent. It's not, and they chose to use that word for a reason."[33]

Susan Lerner of Common Cause added, "This language is intended to be confusing and misleading, which is in direct violation of the statutory directive to offer a 'concise' explanation."[34] Furthermore, "There is misleading language. It’s the voters, again, who are shorted in this process."[35]

Lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2014

Lieb vs. Walsh

On August 19, 2014, Common Cause New York initiated a lawsuit against the measure's wording. The group asked a judge to order the proposal's language be rewritten. Common Cause argued that the word "independent" did not accurately describe the proposed redistricting committee.[36]

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, said, "This is a commission that is independent in name only... Too many people will walk into the polling place, they'll get their ballot and it will be the first they've heard about this. That's why the language needs to be neutral, so voters have a reasonable opportunity to make up their own minds."[36]

The case was heard by the New York Supreme Court on September 12, 2014.[37]

On September 17, 2014, Judge Patrick McGrath ruled that the word "independent" must be struck from the measure's text. He said, "[T]he commission cannot be described as 'independent' when eight of 10 members are the handpicked appointees of the legislative leaders and the two additional members are essentially political appointees by proxy."[3]

Neil Steiner, the lawyer for Common Cause New York, responded, "To exercise the right to vote – the very core of our democracy – voters must be given fair and accurate information. We're pleased that the court recognized that describing the proposed commission as "independent", when it so clearly is not, unfairly tilted the playing field, and stopped the Board of Elections from doing so."

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the New York Constitution

According to the New York Constitution, a majority vote was required in two successive sessions of the New York State Legislature in order to qualify the amendment for the statewide ballot.

The measure was referred to the ballot after being approved by both houses in successive terms by simple majority. A2086 was approved for a second time by the New York State Assembly on January 14, 2013. S2107 was approved for a second time by the New York State Senate on January 23, 2013.[1][2]

Assembly vote

January 14, 2013 Assembly vote

New York A2086 Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 133 89.86%
No1510.14%

Senate vote

January 23, 2013 Senate vote

New York S2107 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 43 68.25%
No2031.75%

See also

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Suggest a link

External links

Basic information

Support

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 New York State Assembly, "A02086 Summary," accessed January 20, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 New York State Assembly, "S02107 Summary," accessed January 20, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rochester City Newspaper, "Judge says proposed redistricting commission could not be independent," September 17, 2014
  4. New York State Board of Elections, "Proposal Number One," accessed September 22, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. New York Observer, "Backgrounder: How Redistricting Will Reshape New York's Battle Lines," December 27, 2010
  7. New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, "Homepage," accessed July 28, 2014
  8. Times Union, "New York awaits more reform," April 3, 2011
  9. Vote Yes for Progress, "Homepage," accessed August 21, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 New Jersey Herald, "NY voters urged to defeat redistricting referendum," June 23, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 WRVO, "Reform groups split on ballot amendment," August 14, 2014
  12. Vote Yes for Progress, "Five Reasons to Vote Yes," accessed August 21, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 New York City, "New York City 2014 Voter Guide," accessed October 29, 2014
  14. Utica Observer-Dispatch, "State Proposition 1: PRO," October 12, 2014
  15. New York Campaign Financial Disclosure, "Campaign Finance for Citizens Union," accessed September 17, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Albany Times Union, "Redistricting panel gets another overhaul," January 23, 2013
  17. The Villager, "V.I.D. rejects a redistricting ballot initiative," October 9, 2014
  18. 18.0 18.1 New York Times, "Ballot Item Would Reform Redistricting, at Least in Theory," October 12, 2014
  19. Albany Times Union, "Groups slam proposal for redistricting reform," June 23, 2014
  20. The Journal News, "Samuels: Redistricting reform "Republican" driven," August 18, 2014
  21. Utica Observer-Dispatch, "State Proposition 1: CON," October 12, 2014
  22. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "That’s not reform," October 4, 2014
  23. Albany Times Union, "Call this reform? 
More like a sham," January 24, 2013
  24. The Journal News, "Editorial: Proposal 1 falls short of true redistricting reform," October 26, 2014
  25. Newsday, "Editorial: How Newsday votes on New York ballot propositions," October 16, 2014
  26. New York Times, "Ballot Measures for Nov. 4," October 28, 2014
  27. The Post-Standard, "New York's Redistricting Mess: Now it's up to voters to undo hyper-partisan process," accessed January 25, 2013
  28. Times Herald-Record, "Editorial: Ballot item changes but idea is still bad," September 25, 2014
  29. Auburn Citizen, "Our View: Ballot wording must be neutral," July 31, 2014
  30. The Daily News, "Editorial: Referendum language misleads," August 22, 2014
  31. 31.0 31.1 Rochester Business Journal, "Coalition seeks neutral language for election redistricting language," July 29, 2014
  32. WXXI News, "Redistricting Amendment Language Set, Critics Object," August 1, 2014
  33. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "Ballot wording draws concerns," August 7, 2014
  34. Albany Times Union, "Ballot measure on redistricting firmed up; independence questioned," August 2, 2014
  35. WRVO, "NY State Board of Elections sets language for November ballot amendment, critics object," August 4, 2014
  36. 36.0 36.1 Crain's New York Business, "Group challenges New York redistricting plan," August 19, 2014
  37. readMedia, "Court Date! Suit Challenges Misleading Redistricting Amendment Ballot Language," September 11, 2014