What is redistribution and why is it so important?

Posted on Aug 28, 2021 at 2:42 p.m. by Carol Tannenhauser

By Carol Tannenhauser

The question: “I will never fully understand how district boundaries are determined,” wrote a reader to West Side Rag.

The answer: Redistribution.

Why is this so important? Because redistribution – the determination of new district boundaries – can have a profound, even predictive, effect on the outcome of elections. Indeed, according to The New York Times, ” Cutting could overthrow control of the house in 2022 without a single voter changing sides.

The 50 states are now in the process of redistributing. Here is an overview of how it works.

A district is an area where you live, vote and, presumably, are represented. We all reside simultaneously in several different neighborhoods. In addition to Community Council 7 (which is appointed by elected officials) and District City Council 6 (council members have a shortened 2-year term during redistribution years), most Upper West Siders reside in the district. of US Congress 10, State Senate District 29, and State Assembly District 67. All have their own distinct boundaries.

US Congressional District 10 as currently configured.

NY State Senate District 29 as currently configured.

NY State Assembly District 67 as currently configured.

Every ten years, after a national census, like the one completed in 2020, all district boundaries in all 50 states are redrawn, based on population trends and federal guidelines. Essentially, districts should be roughly equal in population, contiguous and compact, accommodate “community likeness” and not discriminate on the basis of party, race or ethnicity.

As in many states, New York’s district boundaries were redrawn by state legislatures until 2014, when, to make the process fairer, New Yorkers voted to appoint an independent commission to redraw. the boundaries of the districts. They are in the process of doing so and will be releasing new maps on September 15th.

“After a series of (virtual) public hearings this summer and fall, the commission will submit its proposed maps to the Legislature, which can either approve the lines or reject them and ultimately redraw them,” the Gotham Gazette reported.

What is the point then of having an independent commission? Primarily, he is bipartisan, appointed by the four majority and minority legislative leaders, with a better chance of avoiding the bugaboo of redistribution: gerrymandering.

Governor Elbridge Gerry.

“Gerrymandering was named in honor of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry in the early 19th century. ” Vox Explain. “After Gerry took office in 1810, his Democratic Republican party redrawn the state Senate district map in a particularly dramatic and unusual way. The aim was to weaken the opposing federalist party as much as possible. The new map of the State Senate districts has been widely mocked in the press…. An oddly shaped district has been said to resemble a salamander and has been combined with the governor’s name to create the term gerrymander.

Merriam-Webster defines gerrymandering as “the practice of dividing or organizing a territorial unit into electoral constituencies in such a way as to give a political party an unfair advantage in elections”. He then describes two methods of gerrymandering: “cracking” and “packaging”.

“The cracking is a form of gerrymandering in which the electoral districts are drawn in such a way that the voters likely to support the opposing party are distributed among several districts to dilute the power of their votes. Wrapping is a form of gerrymandering in which electoral districts are drawn in such a way that voters likely to support the opposing party are concentrated in one district to limit the influence of their votes in the other districts.

“New York State currently has 27 members in the United States House of Representatives, 63 State Senate Districts, and 150 Assembly Districts.” THE CITY reported. “But New York will lose a seat in Congress based on the statewide population count already released by the Census, in which New York 89 people were missing. In a political game of musical chairs, the New York redistribution players will decide which seat gets eliminated – likely a Republican-held district in the upstate, given the Democratic Party’s dominance over the process.

New York does not reflect the majority of the nation. Although the US Congress is divided, in terms of state legislatures, “As of July 30, 2021, Republicans controlled 54.31% of all state legislative seats nationally, while Democrats held 44.83%. Republicans held a majority in 61 chambers and Democrats a majority in 37 chambers. A chamber (Alaska House) was organized under a multi-party and power-sharing coalition ”, Ballot reported. This is important because “in 33 states, state legislatures play the dominant role in legislative redistribution (of Congress and) of states.”

Gotham Gazette explained what is at stake: “Republicans have more power to draw new state district maps than Democrats because they have more ‘trifectas’, where one party controls both houses of the legislature. state and governor’s office. Republicans now have 23 three-tiered states against 15 for Democrats, including New York. These National Republican advantages mean the outcome of the New York redistribution could be vital for Democrats who hold the House of Representatives. “

There is a point in the redistribution process where the audience can step in and influence how the lines are drawn. Before assuming that public hearings have no weight, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that “approximately 44% of public comments expressing a view on how a specific location should be treated by map designers were adopted into final congressional maps.

“After the virtual hearings and the publication of official census data, the commission will release the first redistribution proposal to the public on September 15. The commission will then schedule the hearings required by the Constitution for an additional public contribution on the map proposed in the fall. For tips on how to make effective redistributing comments in a hearing, click here.

The above article was sent to us by Upper West Sider Carol Salmanson. Salmanson is an artist and member of True democracy now, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to get maps of the correct electoral districts drawn this year, as they will determine which representatives are ours for the next ten years,” she said. “The goal of True Democracy is to make voters aware of the power they have to influence these cards and thus strengthen our voice. “

When the schedule for the fall public hearings is released, we’ll let you know.

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