York's Redistricting News
Buffalo News: "Voting is
Meaningless?" November 7, 2002
More Recent Redistricing News from New York
More Redistricting News from New York (December 29, 2000-April 22, 2002)
Voting is Meaningless?
By James Heaney
November 7, 2002
They amounted to contests in name only. Not only did all 22 Western New York incumbents in races for the State Legislature and House of Representatives win re-election Tuesday, they did so in landslide fashion. None received less than 58 percent of the vote, and on average, incumbents picked up 72 percent of the tally.
Five of them faced no competition, and another had only a minor-party opponent. Still others faced nominal competition.
There are a lot of reasons for the lack of competition, including new legislative districts that favor incumbents and campaign finance laws that work in favor of those already in office.
Western New York is hardly unique in the incumbent headlock. "It fits the general pattern we see in American politics of declining competition," said James Campbell, a professor of political science at the University at Buffalo.
But the consequences might be more profound in New York than in many other states, said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
"I don't know of any state in the country where neither state house has flipped from one party to the other over the past 30 years. In New York, we protect incumbents like no one else," he said.
"That's bad for democracy. Competitive elections are the lifeblood of democracy, and in New York we need a transfusion," he said.
Blair and Campbell said the lack of competitive races is fueling public cynicism of government and politics.
"Elections don't mean much unless there's competition," Campbell said.
"If people get this impression that the elections aren't where the real decisions are made, but contributions are where the real decisions are made, it reduces the legitimacy of the system.
"Elections become kind of hollow rituals."
A Buffalo News analysis of election results in Western New York for the House, State Senate and Assembly shows that races were less competitive this year than in 2000.
This was the first election cycle that candidates ran in new district boundaries, crafted by the State Legislature and based on Census 2000 figures.
Legislators, faced with the prospect of a court-appointed master drawing district boundaries, agreed on a plan that many critics said merely strengthened the hand of incumbents.
That's certainly the way it played out.
Two of six incumbents in the State Senate ran without opposition.
The same can be said for three of 12 Assembly incumbents, and a fourth faced only minor-party opposition.
Only in the four House races did the incumbents face challengers. But all these incumbents won in landslides, drawing anywhere from 58 to 95 percent of the vote.
A national trend
In nearly two-thirds of all the 22 races, the results were even more lopsided than two years ago.
The results are "a mirror image of what's going on nationally," said Thomas Patterson, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and author of a new book, "The Vanishing Voter."
Patterson pointed to studies showing that a record number of races for state legislatures across the nation are going uncontested, as well as a dwindling number of competitive races for the House.
A recent analysis by Congressional Quarterly, for example, determined that there were only 13 genuinely competitive races for the 435 seats in Congress. The lack of competitiveness has been worsening since the 1960s, he said, when costly campaign strategies such as television advertising and other forms of mass marketing became standard.
These days, Patterson said, only elections for president, governor and the U.S. Senate are sure bets to generate competitive races.
The gerrymandering of legislative districts every 10 years is mentioned as another factor feeding the lack of competition.
"With the reapportionment you have every 10 years, you have the incumbents pick the voters rather than the voters picking the officeholders," said Joseph Crangle, an attorney and former Erie County Democratic Party chairman.
Incumbents also enjoy fund-raising advantages. For example, the typical incumbent congressman outspent his opponent 13-to-1 in 2000, a study shows.
But there's more at play, said Patterson, especially in places like New York.
Holding on tightly
More and more elected officials are becoming career politicians, Patterson said.
New York legislators make good money - an assemblyman, for example, makes $79,500 a year, plus assorted perks - and they employ large staffs that function as year-round PR machines.
"Incumbents are figuring out how to put a lock in their office," he said. "They have their donor lists, their loyalists, they essentially create their own party."
Moreover, he said, quality candidates are getting tougher to come by.
"It's getting harder to get people to step into the arena. At one point in time, people would say, "Good public servant.' Now you're likely to get trashed by your opponent and maybe by the media."
Faced with the long odds, many candidates pass on the opportunity to run, Patterson said.
The harm is twofold, experts say..
First, government becomes less responsive, Patterson said, as elected officials become more entrenched and insulated from the public.
Studies show that shifts in government policy usually occur only when there's a significant turnover in officeholders, he added.
In addition, the public is getting turned off, and often is tuning out as a result.
A lack of competitive races "is a major reason voter turnout is so low," said Michael V. Haselswerdt, an assistant professor of political science at Canisius College.
"It feeds into all the skepticism people have about politics and government. I think it's very unhealthy," he said.
"Nothing to discuss'
Alfred Coppola, who unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, in Tuesday's election, agrees.
Coppola has seen it from both sides, winning election to the Common Council nine times and losing the past two elections for State Senate, first as the incumbent, then as the challenger.
"It's unfair to the public, because issues should be talked about at election time," he said. "When there's no opposition, there's nothing to discuss."
Experts aren't optimistic about the prospects for reform, such as term limits and public financing of campaigns.
"I wish I saw a light," Patterson said. "I don't."
The New York Times
Legislating the New York Way, in a Chronic Case of Gridlock
By Richard Perez-Pena
October 20, 2002
A two-year-old federal law withholds money from states that fail to adopt tougher drunken driving laws, lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08. Most states have complied, but not New York, an omission that has cost the state $30 million, and counting.
New York's inaction is odd, since Gov. George E. Pataki supports the change, as do Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker; Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader; and solid majorities in both houses. But when Mr. Pataki was asked in June whether his meetings with legislative leaders had moved them closer to a new drunken driving law, he looked surprised and said, "It hasn't come up."
Through the six months the Legislature met this year, Senate and Assembly leaders barely discussed the matter. Each house passed its own .08 bill, refusing to compromise or vote on each other's bills, and they never convened a conference committee to resolve their differences.
Far from being an isolated case, this kind of gridlock has been Albany's chronic affliction for more than a decade, through Democratic and Republican governors. Because this is an election season, some criticism about the problem has been aimed at Governor Pataki. But the legislative atrophy is the making of both parties. It has grown steadily worse, and many experts argue that it is worse here than in any other state.
"When people start writing about New York, they tend to go get a thesaurus and find all the synonyms for dysfunctional," said James J. Lack, a Republican state senator from Suffolk County. As a past president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, he gained an understanding of other states that left him chagrined about his own.
"Things take longer and are more difficult to accomplish than in just about any other state," he said. "And there's no question that it's gotten more severe." When important deals are struck at last, it is usually with a secrecy befitting matters of national security, with Governor Pataki, Senator Bruno and Assemblyman Silver meeting privately and disclosing as little as possible to the public the much-derided "three men in a room" system.
It was that system that Mr. Pataki once vowed to end. A former legislator, he ran in 1994 as the reformer who would cure Albany's sclerosis, promising to get things done, and to put an end to the record string of late budgets. Now, as he runs for a third term, his opponents have tried to make gridlock a campaign issue and use it against him.
They have found, however, how hard it is to get voters worked up over Albany's inaction one reason the inaction continues.
Before he dropped out of the Democratic race for governor, Andrew M. Cuomo repeatedly told audiences, "This is a government that is unique in its dysfunction," but he gained no traction. Tom Golisano, the Independence Party nominee, has used similar themes, but polls show him having only about 17 percent of voter support.
This year New York was the last state, by far, to finish the once-a-decade task of redrawing legislative and Congressional district boundaries. The year's legislative achievements giving New York City mayors more control of the schools, and a mandate that insurers pay for cancer screening and contraceptives for women followed years of negotiation.
This year Albany even violated the venerable rule of thumb that legislators find ways to get things done in even-numbered years, when they all have to stand for re-election. At least 2002 had a marked improvement in tone over 2001 and some other recent sessions, when lawmakers' public name-calling made the Capitol seem more like a sandbox, and Mr. Pataki, a Republican, and Mr. Silver, a Democrat, went weeks without talking to each other.
Time and again, bills gain the support of clear majorities in both houses, but never go to a vote in one house or the other, only because one of the three leaders stops it.
For years, Mr. Bruno, a Republican, has not allowed a Senate vote on a gay-rights bill, and Mr. Silver has not permitted an Assembly vote on banning the procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. This year, Republican senators say, Mr. Pataki played a central role in persuading the Senate not to vote on popular bills to raise the minimum wage and prohibit smoking in restaurants; aides to the governor say he applied no such pressure. Mr. Silver blocked votes on antiterrorism bills the governor proposed after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Even more striking are the issues, like drunken driving, where the three controlling factions generally agree but one, two or all three refuse to compromise.
"Everyone's gotten to the point where their standard position is, `I'm going to hold out for what I want, instead of taking the half that's being offered,' " said Lester M. Shulklapper, a prominent lobbyist since the 1970's. "I've never seen it this bad."
The Senate refuses to consider a drunken driving bill unless it also increases penalties for violators. The Assembly refuses to consider changing the penalties.
New York's Superfund program to clean up the worst toxic-waste sites is out of money, and three years of intensive negotiations over how to finance it and set new cleanup standards have not produced even a temporary fix. Lawmakers let the program stop in 2001, and failed this year to revive it.
All sides agreed this year that New York should require clergy members to report suspected child abuse to the authorities. But a proposal ran aground in June on a difference in wording so minor that legislators in both parties voiced confidence that it would be resolved in hours. They were wrong; neither house passed a bill.
Talks on relaxing the Rockefeller-era drug laws have dragged on for years. And while all factions agree that New York's convoluted court system should be streamlined, they refuse to compromise on control of courthouse patronage.
Compounding the paralysis, lawmakers have made it routine to link one issue to another, in hopes of winning concessions. In 1996, Mr. Pataki held up the state budget for months to win changes in the workers' compensation law. In 1997, Mr. Silver did the same until rent regulations were renewed. Because of such linkage, the practice in the Capitol is to delay most major bills until the budget is enacted.
Late budgets are a form of gridlock in which New York has no peer. Since the 1970's, there have been 13 state budgets around the country passed more than two months overdue, and 7 of those belonged to New York. The four latest budgets in state history came in the last six years, and each time, it was partly because one of the major players would not negotiate for months.
Last year, the budget was not completed until Oct. 25, almost seven months late, the worst showing by any state since the Depression. School districts began the year unsure of how many teachers they could hire or how many classrooms they could build; some guessed badly and were forced to make midyear cuts.
A Clash of Egos
What malady could cause such paralysis?
The most obvious is the constant clash of egos, personalities and agendas among the leaders, particularly between Mr. Pataki and Mr. Silver. But the deeper reasons, say people who follow state government closely, are the invulnerability of nearly all incumbents and a division of power between Republicans and Democrats that is more firmly embedded than in any other state.
One thing Mr. Pataki, the Republican from Peekskill, and Mr. Silver, the Lower East Side Democrat, have in common is that behind each man's laconic manner is a fiercely stubborn competitor. They plainly do not like, trust or, at times, even understand each other. Each side accuses the other of bargaining in bad faith and being too quick to take credit for achievements.
Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bruno declined to be interviewed for this article, though many people close to them and Mr. Silver spoke, most on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Silver said the problem among them was primarily "a matter of philosophies that don't necessarily coincide."
Michael McKeon, the governor's communications director, said: "There are real differences. It does take time to work things out, and it takes a will to get things done, which is sometimes missing."
None of the three sides disputed that New York suffers from gridlock.
Republicans complain of Mr. Silver's exasperating style. They say he favors delay as a negotiating tactic, and that every time they strike a deal he returns with one more demand.
"I take that as a compliment," Mr. Silver said. "Yes, I'm an advocate for my conference and I try to get everything I can."
This year, Republicans contend, Mr. Silver was determined not to give the governor any legislative achievements to take into his re-election campaign.
Democrats and more than a few Republicans complain that Mr. Pataki also plays rough. Over the last few years, the governor reneged on a multiyear deal with the Legislature to increase spending on prekindergarten and kindergarten classes, he fired half a dozen patronage appointees who were Mr. Bruno's friends when he thought the Senate leader was becoming too independent, and he insisted on enacting a law that withholds legislators' pay but not his own when the budget is late.
"He's as tough as they come, and sure, he and his crew can be vicious," said a prominent Republican state official.
Mr. Silver said, "He views the Legislature as a nuisance he would rather not have to deal with."
Mr. McKeon responded, "I think that's just a partisan answer."
The iciness between governor and speaker was vivid after the World Trade Center attack. Mr. Pataki took dozens of dignitaries on tours of ground zero, but not Mr. Silver, in whose district the devastation lay.
After Sept. 11, Mr. Silver said the state should award college scholarships to victims' families. A few days later, Mr. Pataki proposed the same thing in a news release that quoted several officials, but did not mention the speaker. And he did it on Rosh Hashana, when Mr. Silver, an Orthodox Jew, was unable to participate or comment.
Mr. Silver took those incidents as part of a long pattern of snubs, according to people close to him. A top lobbyist who is on good terms with all three leaders said, "The personalities just don't mix very well."
"Joe's a small-town businessman, pretty straightforward; he wants to make a deal and leave," the lobbyist said. "Shelly is a litigator; he starts with a position that's just a position, and he assumes you're going to do long, incremental negotiations to get to the final deal. And the governor is just a very stubborn, set-your-position-and-stick-to-it kind of guy."
Mr. Pataki has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of his power over the state budget, trying to diminish the Legislature's role. In some years he has refused to negotiate, daring the Legislature to pass a budget and risk his line-by-line vetoes.
A result has been a series of lawsuits, essentially over who is in charge. Mr. Pataki contends that he is just reclaiming a governor's rightful authority, usurped over two decades. Until it is resolved, the conflict continues to contribute to the impasse.
Legislature Happy to Stay Divided
The basic cause of New York's troubles, experts say, is its uniquely entrenched, divided government.
For almost 28 years, Democrats have controlled the Assembly and Republicans have controlled the Senate. This state of affairs, assumed by many New Yorkers to be simply the way of things, is, in fact, so abnormal that political scientists marvel at it. In two centuries of partisan American democracy, they say, no other state has had divided government for nearly as long.
"The fact that the two opposing majorities in the Legislature are set in stone, that the individual legislators know they have nothing to worry about, just encourages everybody to dig in and refuse to compromise," said Mel Miller, a former Assembly speaker who is now a lobbyist. "And the longer it goes on, the worse it gets."
There are, of course, voters who favor divided government as a way of curbing both parties' extremist tendencies. But in Albany it leads to rifts over basic legislative issues like the budget.
What is also different is that neither party really tries to take control of both houses. Senate Republicans and the Assembly Democrats have a truce, dating back to the early 1980's. Neither group devotes money or personnel to races in the opposite house, leaving the outgunned legislators in the minority party to fend for themselves.
Redistricting is a crucial piece of the arrangement. The Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans give each other total leeway to draw the lines for their respective houses as they see fit. That allows each party to pad its majority in one house, while consenting to the systematic weakening of its party in the other.
"You won't find that kind of deal anywhere else in the country," said Alan Rosenthal, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, who studies legislatures.
States where bipartisan commissions or judges draw district lines have far more competitive elections, and routinely see control shift between parties.
Three successive governors Hugh L. Carey, Mario M. Cuomo and Mr. Pataki and the statewide political parties have mostly cooperated in the nonaggression pact. With a few exceptions, they have not tried to dislodge the opposing legislative majorities, and all three governors signed the Legislature's redistricting plans.
The arrangement turns the notion of bipartisanship on its head. Opposing factions go at each other, tooth and claw, over every issue where the public would want them to compromise. But in the one area where they are expected to battle, elections, they do not.
The truce is especially frustrating to Democrats, the dominant party, with two million more registered voters than the Republicans. Democrats argue and many Republicans agree that without such collaboration, Republicans would probably have lost control of the Senate years ago.
"What is crystal clear is that the Assembly Democrats care more about the size of their majority than about Democrats' taking control of the Senate," said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Other states have divided legislatures, but not like New York's. A divided legislature nearly always has one house, or both, with a majority that is new to power, barely clinging to control and afraid of the next election. In New York, the majorities are not slim, rarely afraid of anything and, of course, far from new.
Aside from New York, 14 states and Congress now have Republicans in control of one house and Democrats in control of the other. In every case, a shift of just one, two or three seats would change the balance, but not in New York.
In New York, the Senate is solidly Republican, at 36 to 25, and Republicans have held the majority for all but one of the last 63 years. Democrats have an overwhelming 97-to-52 majority in the Assembly, which they have controlled since the 1974 election.
"This really bizarre quasi-permanent divided control, plus the absence of competitive elections in New York these are the fundamental issues when you talk about dysfunction in Albany," said Gerald Benjamin, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the State University at New Paltz, who has written extensively on New York State government.
"Neither side ever has its chance to govern, which means that neither side ever gets held accountable," he said. "Everyone has learned that they can afford to dig in and do nothing, and suffer no consequences at the polls. They can always point to the other side and say, `It's their fault.' "
Hard, and Rare, to Lose Individual legislators are as secure as the majorities. New York State legislators are literally as likely to die in office or be arrested as to lose at the ballot box.
Over the last two decades, state legislators around the country have won about 92 percent of their re-election bids, according to figures compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In New York, the figure is above 98 percent.
Most of those who lose are New York City Democrats who fall in primaries because of shifting ethnic populations in their districts or factional disputes within the party. Competitive elections between candidates of different parties are as rare as snow in June.
In the last two general elections, just one lawmaker out of 389 lost, a 99.7 percent re-election rate, and that sole loser was a first-term incumbent.
What does it take to knock them out? The whiff of scandal will not always do it.
Senator Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx, forced out of office in 1996 because of improper nominating petitions, won his seat back in 2000, campaigning while on trial on charges that he diverted government money to his campaign. He was acquitted 10 days after the election. He is running for re-election again this year.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn survived accusations that he took kickbacks from nonprofit groups. He was acquitted in 1998, and then he handily won re-election.
This year, Assemblywoman Gloria Davis and Senator Guy J. Velella of the Bronx are both subjects of corruption investigations (Mr. Velella has been indicted), but even their critics expect them to be re-elected.
Besides redistricting and electoral nonaggression, New York's lawmakers use machinery unmatched in any state to build this record of invulnerable incumbents and impregnable majorities.
The governor and Legislature woo voters with more staff members (many of whom take leaves of absence to work on campaigns), a larger public relations apparatus and more discretionary pork-barrel spending than any of their counterparts around the country.
"With those tools, you almost have to try to lose," said Edmund J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a former senior staff member in both the Legislature and the Pataki administration. "So you have a government where the people in charge have no agreement on the issues, no love for each other, no fear of the next election and no incentive to compromise. It's the worst possible setup."
The New York Times
Nassau Democrats Hope to Retain Edge for Years by Redrawing District Lines Now
By Bruce Lambert
September 15, 2002
It seemed like merely a small local election when a few thousand voters in one Nassau legislative district went to the polls this week to fill a vacant seat. But the ballots they cast will help shape the political landscape of the entire county for a decade or more.
The Democrats won that special election, a victory that drew attention beyond the district because it restored the party's majority in the Nassau County Legislature. But there is yet another impact that is far more wide-ranging.
Now that the Democrats are back in control, they are relishing their first chance ever to redraw the boundaries for all the Legislature's districts, changing lines that they say were rigged against them.
They hope that the new map � which by law must remain in place until 2013 � will enable them to capture more seats in Nassau, long a vaunted Republican stronghold. If they succeed, they will perpetuate their power and revise the lines the next time as well. Under the county charter, the map is updated every decade based on each new federal census.
"Now the Democrats are going to draw the lines to maximize their majority," said Dr. Stanley B. Klein, a political science professor at C. W. Post College. "To the victor belong the spoils."
The Nassau Democratic Party chairman, Jay S. Jacobs, said, "The decision voters made in the First District on Tuesday will be important for at least the next 10 years."
Kevan M. Abrahams, a Democrat, was elected to a vacant seat in the special election.
Before any new map is set, it faces intense partisan wrangling in the county's newly appointed Temporary Districting Advisory Commission, in the Legislature itself and quite likely in the courts.
"We will do what we have to do, even if it means going to court," if the new lines are unfair to Republicans, said Joseph Mondello, their party's county chairman. "Certainly the party in power has the edge, I understand that. But as far as I'm concerned, this is still a Republican county."
Republicans used to hold a 3-to-2 edge over Democrats in Nassau. But the enrollment gap is closing, voters are crossing party lines, and independents, now a fifth of the electorate, swing the balance of power.
Though both parties rail against gerrymandering and claim they want "fair fight" districts, they have opposing visions of what that means.
The redistricting issue revolves around the magic number in Nassau's political arithmetic: 10. That is how many seats it takes to control the 19-member Legislature.
In a momentous upset three years ago, Nassau voters rebelled against the Republican administration's budgetary fiascos. Democrats won the legislative branch for the first time since World War I, with the bare minimum of 10 seats.
Despite efforts to extend their majority, the Democrats have been capped at that number ever since. Even last year, when Thomas R. Suozzi led their ticket in a stunning landslide for county executive, the party failed to add a single seat.
Democratic leaders say they are boxed in by boundaries purposely carved to stuff as many Democrats as possible into a few districts, while making the other districts easy pickings for the Republicans.
"These were designed to be impossible districts for Democrats to win," Mr. Jacobs said. "This was meant to preserve the dynasty for the Republicans for generations."
The Democratic majority is fragile. In 2000, the death of Barbara Johnson, a legislator, left the Legislature temporarily deadlocked at 9 to 9 for several weeks until her son, Craig, regained the seat in a special election.
History repeated itself last July when Patrick C. Williams Sr. resigned upon pleading guilty to falsifying income statements to help business clients get loans. Once more the Legislature was left in a stalemate until Mr. Abrahams won back that seat last week. His lopsided victory, by nearly 5 to 1, underscored the concentration of Democrats there.
"We're 10 again, 10 again," chanted the Legislature's presiding officer, Judith A. Jacobs, at the victory party at the Chez Vous Caribbean restaurant in Freeport. "This has been a majority that has had to become a majority over and over again."
Now the Democrats want a shot at expanding their tenuous 10 to a more secure majority, say 11, 12 or even 13. Thirteen is another magic number, the vote needed to override a veto or adopt bond issues without being blocked by the Republican legislative minority.
The redistricting process starts with the appointed panel. Coincidentally on the day of the election, the Legislature approved $235,000 to finance the panel. It met Thursday to plan public hearings.
Because the panel is evenly split between five Democrats and five Republicans, most politicians are betting that it will not agree on a new map. "We're going to try to work in a cooperative fashion," said the chairwoman, Barbara Patton, "but if we end up with two reports, so be it."
Regardless of what the panel does, the Legislature itself will make the final decision. It can accept the panel's recommendations, amend them or draft a totally new map.
The Democrats are expected to shift some voters from their party's solid six districts to bolster the four incumbents who won Republican districts in the 1999 upset. They are considering forming a potential black seat around Elmont in western Nassau, in addition to the two central Nassau districts with black representatives.
The Republicans argue for little if any change. "The demographics really haven't changed much, so you really can't justify drastic changes," said the Legislature's minority leader, Peter Schmitt.
John Kiernan, who headed the commission that created the current lines and leads the Republicans on the new redistricting panel, said he would oppose "any radical surgery, like splitting communities and shredding districts."
"A case can be made that the existing lines are fair," Mr. Kiernan said. They were originally supported by some top Democrats, approved by a judge and adopted by voter referendum. Using those boundaries, Republicans won a majority in the first two general elections, and Democrats won the next two.
Besides the clash between Republicans and Democrats over redistricting, the issue is already provoking debate within Democratic circles.
Democrats risk mapping themselves out of control by making "the classic reapportionment mistake" of overreaching, said Michael A. Miller, a Democrat who worked on past districting plans. There are simply not enough Democratic voters to spread around for the party to gain two or three more seats without undermining their strong districts, he warned.
Not to be forgotten are the incumbent Democratic legislators � who, after all, have the final say. They would balk at weakening their own districts such that they would be forced to mount significantly tougher campaigns to win re-election, said one party adviser. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said, "They would squeal like pigs."
The Washington Times
Gilman set to retire from Congress
By Stephen Dinan
July 3, 2002
Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican, announced yesterday he will not seek re-election in his newly redrawn district, allowing fellow Republican Sue W. Kelly to run unopposed for the party nomination. His retirement clears up the final uncertainty of who will run for re-election in New York after a difficult congressional redistricting, in which the legislature had to eliminate two seats owing to population changes in the 2000 census.
The legislature paired Mr. Gilman and Mrs. Kelly in one district and two Democratic incumbents in another district to account for the lost seats.
"It became evident that the state's efforts to target our district in order to protect other incumbents undermined our efforts to successfully pursue another term in the Congress," Mr. Gilman, 79, wrote in an open letter announcing his retirement. "Accordingly, it is with great remorse that I must announce that I will not be standing for re-election to the 108th Congress."
Several weeks ago, Mr. Gilman told reporters he was considering switching parties to run as a Democrat in the new district, though many New York and national Republican leaders dismissed that possibility. If he had switched, party leaders said, he probably would have lost the general election to Mrs. Kelly, since the new district has more of her old voters than his and leans solidly Republican.
His retirement will end a 30-year career in the House, during which he served six years as chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
"Ben's outstanding record as a public servant is truly remarkable," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. "When he was chairman of the House International Relations Committee, he ensured peace and security for our nation while fighting injustice and corruption throughout the world. Ben is also recognized as a human rights champion, a title that is befitting for such a dedicated and honorable man."
In the Democrat-paired seat in New York, Rep. John J. LaFalce announced his retirement last week rather than face fellow Democrat Rep. Louise M. Slaughter in a primary.
The remaining 29 incumbents are running for re-election in New York this year. Though there are freshmen on either side who could be targets, all the incumbents are expected to win.
That follows a nationwide trend in which incumbents' districts were strengthened. The most competitive seats are those of retired members or those that were newly added to some states after the 2000 census.
In California, except for Democratic Rep. Gary A. Condit's seat � he lost in the primary � the rest of the state's 53 seats are considered safe for the incumbent party. The district where the state gained a new seat was drawn to fit a Democrat.
Add to that New York's 29 seats, and nearly one-fifth of the U.S. House is essentially locked into the status quo party division.
Mark Gersh, an analyst at the National Committee for an Effective Congress, which supports liberal candidates, said that between 1992 and this year, Republicans made gains in state legislatures and among governorships, giving them more of a hand in redistricting decisions.
"Consequently, there was more of a motivation to compromise," Mr. Gersh said. He said that was a big part of the push to protect each side's incumbents.
The New York Times
Congressman Won't Switch, but Will Fight Redistricting
July 2, 2002
Representative Benjamin A. Gilman, New York State's senior Republican in Congress, told supporters here tonight that he would not seek a 16th term this fall, quelling rumors that he would become a Democrat to avoid losing his seat under the state's new redistricting.
"While I could not have envisioned this as an end to my tenure in the House, nevertheless I am especially proud of our accomplishments," Mr. Gilman, 79, said at a party in this Orange County town.
In the plan passed by the State Legislature last month, Mr. Gilman's district in the lower Hudson Valley was consolidated with that of a fellow Republican, Sue W. Kelly. Politicians in both parties predicted that Ms. Kelly, who represented more of the new 19th District than Mr. Gilman and is considered more conservative, would win a party primary later this year.
Mr. Gilman said that Sheldon Silver, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, had invited him to join the Democratic Party and run against Ms. Kelly. He would not say tonight why he had chosen not to run again. But he said he would continue to fight the redistricting in the courts.
"Those responsible for establishing this politically influenced Congressional redistricting map have rendered a great disservice to all of our voters," he said.
New York lost 2 of its 31 seats in the House because the state's population did not grow as quickly as the rest of the nation's did in the 90's, according to the 2000 Census. Lawmakers in Albany compromised on the redistricting plan, forcing two Republicans to compete for the 19th District seat and two incumbent Democrats in Rochester and Buffalo to vie for the new 28th District.
Mr. Gilman has represented parts of the lower Hudson Valley and the Catskills region since 1973. During his time in office, Mr. Gilman was recognized for his crusades against narcotics and world hunger.
Redistricting: One plan OK'd, no decision on another
The Associated Press
June 18, 2002
The U.S. Justice Department has signed off on new lines for state legislative districts in New York, but has yet to approve a more controversial plan that would eliminate two congressional districts in the state -- in one case pitting a Rochester-area Democrat against a Buffalo-area Democrat.
That redrawn congressional plan would pit Reps. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, against John LaFalce, D-Tonawanda, in western New York and Reps. Benjamin Gilman, R-Middletown, against Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, in the lower Hudson Valley.
Gilman and Slaughter have asked the court for the right to intervene in a lawsuit challenging that congressional plan.
Lacking federal approval of those new congressional lines, a federal court panel in New York City has blocked candidates in the state "until further notice" from circulating petitions to get on the ballot.
The petition process, already delayed two weeks while the state Legislature and Pataki haggled over the new congressional district lines, had been scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Among other candidates affected was former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who is trying to petition his way onto a Sept. 10 primary ballot to challenge state Comptroller H. Carl McCall for the Democratic nomination for governor.
The three-judge panel said it was "fully prepared to defer to the state plan," but first wanted to make sure it complies with federal guidelines, including the Voting Rights Act that protects minority voter rights.
Charles Carrier, a spokesman for state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said Tuesday that the Manhattan Democrat was seeking clarification from the federal court on whether state legislative candidates are barred from moving forward with petitions given that the Justice Department has cleared their new district lines.
"There's some confusion over whether they knew those lines had been pre-cleared when they ruled last night," Carrier said.
In a June 17 letter to the chairmen on the Legislative task forces charged with redistricting, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ralph Boyd wrote: "The attorney general does not interpose any objection to the specified changes" in the state legislative lines.
After redrawing its own lines, the state Legislature last month approved a new congressional map that would eliminate two New York House seats by setting up "fair fight" contests between two sets of incumbents. The state was required to trim its House delegation from 31 to 29 to reflect sluggish population growth in the latest Census.
New York Map Likely to Stand
By Jerry Zremski
June 17, 2002
WASHINGTON - Rep. Jack F. Quinn's new district resembles a giant frayed '70s-style bow tie plopped along the shore of Lake Erie.
The district that forces Reps. John J. LaFalce and Louise M. Slaughter together resembles earmuffs.
And Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert's Central New York district looks like a bunny rabbit.
You might think that the courts would have a problem with those districts and others in the jigsaw puzzle that is upstate New York's new congressional map - but you would be wrong.
Experts on reapportionment agree: Upstate's sprawling new districts may look bizarre, and they may do the region a horrible disservice, but they're probably not illegal or unconstitutional.
"You can, unfortunately, get away with almost anything, including this," said Robinson Everett, a professor at Duke University Law School who fought North Carolina's 1990 congressional reapportionment in court.
"The court is always a long shot, and I don't hold out much hope for it," she said.
LaFalce said there's a 50-50 chance that a court will overturn the redistricting plan. But independent experts said LaFalce and Slaughter - both Democrats, one from suburban Buffalo, one from suburban Rochester - are likely to have to face off in a primary this fall.
Both have asked a three-judge federal panel to reject the reapportionment plan that combines their districts, which the State Legislature recently approved. That panel will hear arguments in the case Wednesday, and other legal action is possible, but lawyers think it will all come to naught.
That's because states have been drawing inkblot-like districts for years, and the courts keep letting them do it.
The LaFalce-Slaughter district "kind of rivals the old California district of (Rep.) Phil Burton, which was only contiguous at low tide," said James Campbell, a political scientist at the University at Buffalo.
No court ever forced that district to be redrawn. Nor did courts overturn New York City's 1992 "Bullwinkle District," or any of the others around the country that look like spilled milk.
That leaves lawyers with few precedents to lean on if they want to challenge Rep. John McHugh's elephant-shaped district in the North Country, or the crumpled old boot surrounding Albany that Rep. John Sweeney will soon represent.
It would be different if any of the upstate districts were redrawn for purely racial reasons. The courts have forced several districts - including Louisiana's "Mark of Zorro" to be redrawn, ruling that they were illegal race-based "gerrymanders."
Indeed, the LaFalce-Slaughter district does combine the two cities' minority communities with a vast narrow swath of rural territory. As a result, several African-American politicians, including Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, D-Buffalo, have joined the court case. They claim the plan violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the law, as well as the Voting Rights Act.
The challenge will be proving that race was an issue.
"If the Legislature came up with this for racial purposes, then the plan is in trouble," said Theodore Arrington, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina/Charlotte who helped with New York's 1992 congressional reapportionment. "Any other purpose for this district, be it nefarious or benign, is OK."
LaFalce and Slaughter both believe the racial argument is a bit of a stretch in this case, given that the proportion of African-Americans in the new district - nearly 29 percent - exceeds that of their previous districts.
Instead, in arguing for a return to a court-drawn redistricting plan, LaFalce says his new district doesn't meet federal and state standards for "compactness" and "contiguity." In addition, he said, it "totally ignores and seriously undermines essential community interests."
There's only one problem with that argument, experts said: The courts never buy it.
"If you're talking about communities of interest, you could argue that Rochester ought to have its own district and Buffalo ought to have its own district," said Richard Niemi, a redistricting expert at the University of Rochester. "But it's hard to raise those arguments to legal standards."
It will be equally difficult to argue that New York's plan is an illegal partisan gerrymander, because both the Republican-controlled State Senate and the Democratic Assembly agreed to it, Niemi said.
But couldn't you argue - as many in Albany have - that the map was drawn this way to give safe districts to big political players such as Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison?
Sure, you could argue that and lose in the courts.
"Incumbent protection is permissible," said Everett, the Duke professor.
The trouble is, incumbents in New York will have a much tougher job representing their districts under the new congressional map, political scientists said. They'll be traveling constantly from one outlying part of the district to another, and in the Buffalo-Rochester district, the winner will forever be balancing the needs of one community against those of the other.
"What you've got is partisan considerations obliterating community representation," said Richard F. Fenno, a nationally known expert on Congress at the University of Rochester. "It will be harder for communities to get a representative voice, because they've just been carved up."
The New York Times
Albany Draws New Lines to Keep the House Safe for (Most) Incumbents
By Richard Perez-Pena
June 6, 2002
ALBANY, June 5 � Concluding the painful process of eliminating two of New York's seats in Congress, the Legislature passed a redistricting bill today that leaves four incumbents fighting for two seats, in western New York and the Hudson Valley.
The outlines of the deal had been clear for more than a week, but it was not clear until today that the Assembly and Senate would agree on the details, and head off a panel of federal judges in Manhattan who had threatened to impose a plan drafted by a special master if the Legislature did not act soon. The two houses struck a deal this morning, the bill passed both houses this afternoon, and Gov. George E. Pataki's office signaled that he would sign it into law.
A desire to protect incumbents in both major parties drove the plan. It gives many of them safer districts than they would have had under the court-ordered plan, and in some cases, districts even more secure than the ones they now represent. Heavy pressure from Washington played a role over the last week, as national party leaders weighed in, seeking safer districts for two of their influential favorites, Representatives Thomas M. Reynolds, an Erie County Republican, and Nita M. Lowey, a Westchester Democrat.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, said Terence R. McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the House minority leader, Richard Gephardt, had told him "that the master's plan placed five Democrats in jeopardy, and New York was critical to taking the majority in the House."
Talking with reporters today, Joseph L. Bruno, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate, said he had just discussed redistricting with Vice President Dick Cheney, "and he was very pleased with the results that we are contemplating and the way things are moving."
Under the 2000 census, New York loses 2 of its 31 seats in the House, because its population did not grow as rapidly in the 90's as the nation's. That forced lawmakers to decide which Congress members to sacrifice.
The plan pushes Representatives Sue W. Kelly and Benjamin A. Gilman, both Republicans, into a single district in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, setting up a primary in which Mrs. Kelly is seen as the favorite. Mr. Gilman has said he might respond by switching to the Democratic Party, an idea suggested by Mr. Silver.
"I'm not the least bit concerned about that," Mr. Bruno said, "because that's a fabrication of Speaker Silver, who has these daydreams and he has these fantasies."
Representatives John J. LaFalce and Louise M. Slaughter, both Democrats, are forced into a district that takes in parts of Buffalo and Rochester, with a thin strip along the Niagara River and the Lake Ontario shore linking the two cities. Analysts see the primary matchup there favoring Mr. LaFalce.
The plan passed 51 to 8 in the Senate and 112 to 29 in the Assembly, with many of the dissenting votes coming from western New York lawmakers who objected to the LaFalce-Slaughter district.
Monroe County, which includes Rochester, has 735,000 residents, enough for one Congressional district with about 80,000 people left over. Under the new boundaries, it will be part of four districts, and will not make up the majority in any of them. If Ms. Slaughter loses her primary, Monroe will almost certainly end up without its own representative.
"It is appalling to me that legislators in Albany decided to carve Monroe County into four Congressional districts," Ms. Slaughter said. "In 170 years of the county's history, there have been only six years when a representative did not actually live in the county."
The final holdup in recent days was the boundaries on Long Island, with two Republican and two Democratic incumbents. The special master's plan would have made all four somewhat less secure, but the real threat in heavily Republican Long Island would have been to the Democrats, Carolyn McCarthy and Steve Israel.
The compromise is a slight improvement for the Democrats, though they still have Republican-leaning districts. "It is a little bit better," Mrs. McCarthy said. "Of course, it could have been a whole lot worse."
The Legislature did not tinker with the boundaries within New York City drawn by the special master and accepted by the court. That is expected to speed approval of the plan by the Department of Justice, which must certify that the plan does not dilute minority voting rights in the city.
The New York City lines largely conform to the existing districts, and leave all incumbents relatively secure. One exception is the district of Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from Queens, which now extends far into the Bronx.
There are significant changes in the city's northern suburbs. Representative Eliot L. Engel will represent less of the Bronx and Westchester than he has for the last decade, and his new district adds most of Rockland County, which Mr. Gilman has represented. Mrs. Lowey loses the areas of the Bronx and Queens she had represented, and picks up more of Westchester and part of Rockland.
Crossing Finish Line On Districts
By Ellen Yan
June 6, 2002
Albany - After a contentious debate on drawing new congressional lines, the Legislature passed a plan yesterday that tweaks boundaries on Long Island, combines two western New York districts and merges two Hudson Valley districts. Gov. George Pataki's aides said he would sign it.
For New York City, the plan adopts the districts proposed by a court-appointed special master last month.
"We have been literally tinkering with the lines to create a consensus so people would be comfortable," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick). "We've done the most diligent job we can."
The passage caps weeks of wrangling over how best to cut two of the state's 31 congressional districts after the 2000 Census showed slow population growth.
The process, which took longer to complete than in any other state, was so heavily altered to appease powerful leaders in Albany and Washington, D.C., that Assemb. William Parment (D-Ashville), a co-chairman of the redistricting task force, voted against the measure because he felt it shortchanged the western region of the state.
Parment's fellow chairman, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said the plan is "fair and balanced" and protects the integrity of existing districts.
But Barbara Bartoletti, spokeswoman for the state chapter of the League of Women Voters, called the measure "a typical make-the-incumbents'-protection-even-safer plan."
Under the new lines, the district of Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates) that now sprawls from Queens into Suffolk has been condensed into Queens and western Nassau.
The plan is expected to pass Justice Department approval. Ellen Yan of the Washington Bureau contributed to this story.
Contentious Congressional Redistricting Plan Delayed
By Dionne Searcey
June 4, 2002
Albany - Under a tight deadline, state lawmakers are rushing to draft a congressional redistricting plan that pits an upstate Republican veteran against a member of his own party and sets up a fight between two western New York Democrats.
As of last night, senior lawmakers could not agree on details of the plan - including the borders of the districts of four Long Island representatives - so the Legislature postponed by two weeks today's starting date for candidates to circulate petitions to get on the ballot. Otherwise, districts drawn by a court-appointed special master last month would have taken effect at midnight.
The basic outline of the Legislature's plan would put in jeopardy the re-election of U.S. Reps. Benjamin Gilman (R-Middletown) and Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester). That would be a significant change from the special master's plan, which would place Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-Binghamton) in a new district against Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-Utica), and John LaFalce (D-Buffalo) in a district against Jack Quinn (R-Buffalo).
New York, because of relatively slow population growth recorded in the 2000 census, must give up two of its 31 seats in the U.S. House.
New York is behind all other states in coming up with new district maps, but Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders tried to revive their negotiations after receiving calls of concern from Vice President Dick Cheney and House Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Under the special master's plan, seats held by two influential lawmakers - Nita Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, and Thomas Reynolds, a Buffalo-area Republican - were not as secure as the incumbents wanted.
But the political desires of four Long Island representatives - Democrats Carolyn McCarthy of Mineola and Steve Israel of Dix Hills, and Republicans Felix Grucci of East Patchogue and Peter King of Seaford - also complicated negotiations. The four had come up with their own ideal districts and together lobbied Albany to adopt them.
Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), co-chairman of the Legislature's redistricting panel, balked at the plan because it gives the two Democrats nearly impregnable districts and "just chops up" large parts of Nassau County. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) insisted the representatives' plan be adopted, thus setting up the stalemate.
Skelos also said delaying the petitions was necessary because the Justice Department has not yet given final approval to State Senate and Assembly lines. Late last week, Justice Department lawyers requested additional information about why the Senate wanted to bump its seats from 61 to 62. Slaughter and Gilman are upset with the Legislature's new plan.
Slaughter said in a news release that it would lump parts of Rochester and Buffalo together, pitting the two cities against each other for federal funds. If the changes go through, Slaughter would face a fellow Democrat, John LaFalce of Niagara Falls.
The district represented by Gilman, who has served in Congress for 30 years, would combine with that of Rep. Sue Kelly (R-Fishkill), whose district includes part of Westchester County. Kelly is the likely winner if the two would run against each other, legislative aides said.
Andrew Metz of the Albany Bureau contributed to this story
District lines remain in play as talks fail
By James M. Odato
Tuesday, June 4, 2002
Candidates for public office in New York will be unable to circulate nominating petitions for at least two more weeks after legislative leaders failed to reach agreement Monday on a congressional redistricting plan.
With candidates set to begin circulating petitions today, lawmakers sought to buy more time to come up with their own plan for carving up congressional districts rather than having a federal master's plan take effect.
"In my opinion, we'll do an alternative to the federal plan,'' said Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, the Senate majority's point man on redistricting. He confirmed a deal was close on a plan that essentially would maintain current districts of congressional incumbents but put Reps. Ben Gilman, Louise Slaughter and John LaFalce in jeopardy.
The state congressional districts need to be redesigned because New York is losing two of its 31 seats, a result of the state's slow population growth in the 2000 census. A new map must be drawn so that each of the remaining 29 districts contains the same number of residents.
The Legislature and Gov. George Pataki are trying to come up with a different congressional redistricting plan than one put together by a federal master, but have been unable to agree on one because of competing political priorities.
In Albany, complications, largely over the districts set up for four Long Island congressional members, were holding up a legislative agreement.
Delaying petition circulation won't affect the Sept. 10 primary date, nor will it cut down on the time candidates will have to collect signatures. It simply starts the process later in the summer - which some watchdogs say give incumbents an advantage because challengers will have a harder time finding supporters during vacation season.
Several legislators said the uncertainty regarding congressional districts is affecting all election races because petition forms usually have multiple candidates on them.
"Par for the course: can't do budgets, can't do redistricting. This is the can't do Legislature,'' said Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady.
On Monday, the Legislature voted to set the start of the circulation period for primary elections to June 18. Petitions can be filed with the elections board between July 22 and July 25. The first day for signing independent nominating petitions is July 9.
According to several legislative sources, lawmakers were close to a deal on new congressional districts that would have essentially given Rep. John Sweeney, a Clifton Park Republican, his current district as opposed to an Adirondack district proposed by the federal master. Rep. Michael McNulty, a Green Island Democrat, would keep his Capital Region district but add some areas of Schoharie County.
The plan worked out privately between Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Pataki would have returned many incumbents to their current core district. It would have placed Slaughter, D-Monroe County, in a potential primary with Rep. LaFalce, D-Erie County.
The negotiators fashioned one district that included Slaughter's Rochester base and LaFalce's Buffalo base. Many observers thought Slaughter would be able to beat LaFalce in such a district because she is more liberal, and the new district comprises about 44 percent of her constituency compared with about 38 percent of LaFalce's.
The deal means that Buffalo area incumbent Jack Quinn, a Republican, would get Chautauqua County, part of the district that has been Rep. Amo Houghton's, a fellow Republican. Houghton had campaigned heavily -- including making sure he and his allies sent more than $300,000 to the state Senate GOP campaign fund -- to keep the Southern Tier in one congressional district.
The deal was carved out to appease Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, a Republican from western New York, who used substantial influence to make sure his district would favor a GOP candidate.
Gilman, who has represented all or parts of Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Westchester counties, would see his district parceled out to other incumbents.
The federal court-appointed master's plan would pit Republican Sherwood Boehlert against Democrat Maurice Hinchey, and Quinn against LaFalce. The federal plan was created to set up fair and competitive races. But it also would have shifted many incumbents out of their current districts and exposed several to less favorable re-election odds.
The New York Times
Questions From Justice Department Delay Plan to Add District to New York Senate
By Ricahrd Perez-Pena
June 3, 2002
ALBANY, June 3 � Civil rights lawyers at the United States Justice Department have raised questions about expanding the State Senate to 62 seats from 61, delaying federal approval of the Legislature's redistricting plan.
In a related matter, legislative leaders failed to agree today on a new set of Congressional district boundaries. Instead, lawmakers postponed by two weeks the period for candidates for the Legislature and Congress to begin circulating petitions to put them on the ballot, a process that was to begin Tuesday. Under a Voting Rights Act lawsuit decades old, the Justice Department must approve any new legislative boundaries in New York to ensure that they do not dilute the voting power of minorities in the three counties that make up the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Democrats and some minority groups have argued that adding a seat to the Senate lessens the voting power of minorities statewide.
In submitting the Senate redistricting plan to the Justice Department in late April, the Legislature offered no explanation for the expansion to 62 seats. Last Friday, Justice Department lawyers began telling senators and top aides that a rationale was needed before it could approve the new lines, according to several officials here.
"They contacted me on Friday and asked about the 62 and I explained it's based on the State Constitution," said Senator Dean G. Skelos, the Long Island Republican who headed the redistricting process in the Senate. "They didn't ask me for any additional paperwork. They said they were going to talk to some people, talk to staff, get some more information."
An extremely arcane formula in the State Constitution, dating from 1894, sets the number of Senate seats, but it can be read in widely divergent ways, and state courts have given the Legislature great leeway in interpreting it. Expanding to 62 seats made for smaller districts, allowing the Senate's Republican majority to avoid eliminating an upstate district, and making it easier to draw districts in New York City that Republicans could win.
"Justice had been talking to a lot of people about this issue over the last couple of weeks � senators, aides," said Senator Martin Connor, the Democratic minority leader. "The majority just presented a plan that had 62, without explanation, and not surprisingly, Justice, in the last few days, said you can't do that."
Department officials, including lawyers involved in the case, declined to comment.
It is far from clear what the Justice Department's questions mean. The department could accept the Senate's rationale and quickly approve the plan, or this could be the beginning of a drawn-out process that might include rejection of the plan.
State officials said the Justice Department lawyers said that in their view, the 60-day period for them to review the legislative plan would not begin until the additional seat had been explained to them.
Pointing to those developments, minority groups that have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, challenging the Senate plan, today asked the three-judge panel hearing the case to appoint a special master to draft a Senate redistricting plan. The court did not immediately respond.
It would be significant if the court agreed to take over the process, because the Republicans' ability to retain control of the Senate rests heavily on their ability to draw the most advantageous district lines. Traditionally, the Democratic majority in the Assembly drafts the Assembly lines, the Republican majority in the Senate draws the Senate districts, neither house interferes with the other, and the governor accepts both.
The federal court did appoint a special master to draw congressional district boundaries. Last month, the judges approved the master's plan, and said they would impose it if the Legislature did not pass its own.
New York is the only state that still does not have new Congressional lines. The state must lose 2 of its 31 seats in the House of Representatives this year to account for population shifts in the 2000 census, making the process more difficult.
The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, and the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, met today to discuss a Congressional plan but did not reach an agreement.
The outlines of a deal have been clear for days. It would force two Democrats from western New York, John J. LaFalce and Louise M. Slaughter, into a match-up in a bizarrely shaped district encompassing much of both Rochester and Buffalo. It would also push two Hudson Valley Republicans, Sue W. Kelly and Benjamin A. Gilman, into one district.
The sticking point has been Long Island, where the two Democratic representatives, Steve Israel and Carolyn McCarthy, both have Republican-leaning districts. The special master's plan would make them more vulnerable. Democrats here want to deviate from the master's lines to protect those incumbents. But Republican lawmakers are saying they would rather leave the master's lines for Long Island in place or, at most, change Mr. Israel's district but not Mrs. McCarthy's.
Leaders unable to draw new lines
By JAMES M. ODATO
May 31, 2002
Legislative leaders, under substantial pressure from national officials, a federal court and celebrities to come up with a congressional redistricting plan soon, announced Thursday that they can't agree on one.
After a meeting with Gov. George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said he thought the time had already passed for an alternative to a federal master's plan but that talks would continue today.
"If it works better for the congressional delegation of New York state, yes,'' Bruno said when asked if he preferred an alternative plan. "If it doesn't work better, and that's on both sides of the aisle, then no.''
Last week, a federal court gave the state "a reasonable'' time to devise a plan before a court-appointed special master's plan is imposed. Congressional candidates are scheduled to start circulating petitions Tuesday, but Bruno said the schedule could be altered without affecting local and statewide races.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said after the meeting with Pataki that "our biggest problem is timing,'' adding that he thinks a plan needs to be done by Monday.
New York is losing two of its 31 seats in the House of Representatives because of its sluggish population growth since the 1990 census.
In recent days, legislative leaders have received calls from dozens of politicians and lobbyists for members of Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney, who wants to see a plan that helps keep Congress in GOP hands, called Bruno, according to congressional sources.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Monroe County, said besides civic leaders, actor Billy Baldwin, former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro and national women's groups called Albany on her behalf.
Legislative planners propose to shift Slaughter into a district with Buffalo-area Democrat John LaFalce, and pair incumbent Republicans Benjamin Gilman of Middletown and Sue Kelly of Katonah in another district. None of the congressional incumbents, however, want to face fellow party members in primaries.
The federal master's plan would force races between Democrat Maurice Hinchey of Saugerties and Republican Sherwood Boehlert of the Utica area, and between LaFalce against Republican Jack Quinn in the Buffalo area.
New York Times
Trying to Figure the Odds in New York's Redistricting
By James C. McKinley Jr. with Raymond Hernandez
May 24, 2002
Albany, May 24 � Negotiations over new Congressional districts intensified today after a federal court said it would impose its own plan unless the State Legislature acted soon. At the same time, Vice President Dick Cheney called the Republican leader of the State Senate to express worries about the lines the court has drawn.
How New York redraws its Congressional lines matters greatly to the national Republican Party and the Bush administration. The Republicans have a slim 11-seat majority in the House of Representatives and cannot afford to lose a seat here.
Because New York lost population compared to other states, the state must sacrifice 2 of its 31 Congressional districts. But the Republican majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House have been deadlocked for months over how to do that.
Late Thursday, a panel of federal judges in Manhattan approved a plan drawn up by a court-appointed special master, Frederick Lacey, but said it was still "willing, indeed eager," to let state lawmakers create a fair plan of their own.
The judges did not set a firm deadline for lawmakers. As a practical matter, however, the Legislature must adopt a plan by late next week or accept the court's lines, because candidates must begin circulating petitions in early June, lawmakers said.
Earlier Thursday morning, Mr. Cheney telephoned the State Senate's majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, and urged him to redouble his efforts to negotiate lines that would benefit Republican incumbents. "He was encouraging me to do the best that I could," Mr. Bruno said. For weeks, Mr. Bruno has maintained that the federal court's plan was not only fair but also better than many alternatives that the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, had proposed in private talks.
Mr. Lacey's plan calls for two "fair fights" among incumbents.
One would pit Sherwood L. Boehlert, a Republican, against Maurice D. Hinchey, a Democrat, in a new district in eastern and central New York. Another would have Jack Quinn, a Republican, running against John J. LaFalce, a Democrat, in a Buffalo-based district.
Judging purely by voters' political party enrollment, Mr. Hinchey and Mr. Quinn would likely lose, preserving the balance of Republicans and Democrats. "The master's plan wasn't that bad," Senator Bruno said.
But Republicans in Washington are jittery about Mr. Lacey's plan and some of those worries have reached Mr. Cheney's ears. Indeed, some Republican strategists in Washington think that their party might lose two seats.
"These aren't really fair fights," one leading Republican strategist said. "The Quinn-LaFalce race tilts toward Mr. LaFalce, and the Hinchey-Boehlert race tilts toward Hinchey."
Senator Bruno disagrees. He said the court-approved plan would result in one loss for each party. He said he had told the vice president that, despite the caviling of many Republican members of Congress, there was no point in passing a legislative plan unless it was better for the party than the court's proposed boundaries.
"The master's plan inconveniences many people, but it doesn't endanger them," Mr. Bruno said of his Republican allies in Congress.
One representative said to be worried is Thomas M. Reynolds, an upstate New York Republican who has close ties to Republican House leaders. Mr. Reynolds's district just north of Buffalo would pick up the largely Democratic city of Niagara Falls.
Legislative aides said the negotiations had picked up steam over the last 24 hours and several plans were being considered.
Among them is a proposal that would, in essence, sacrifice a Hudson Valley Republican, Benjamin A. Gilman, and a Monroe County Democrat, Louise M. Slaughter, these aides said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
There are several ways it might be done, however, each with its own ripple effect, and other proposals are being floated as well, aides said.
"It's not easy," said one aide. "It's the worst of jigsaw puzzles."
Roll Call Online
New York Members Brace for Remap
By Ben Pershing and John Bresnahan
May 23, 2002
New York state leaders are on the verge of accepting a federally-drawn redistricting map that would set up two competitive Member-versus-Member races and push a host of Empire State lawmakers into uncharted territory.
Barring a change of heart by state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R), who is leading negotiations on behalf of Republicans in Albany, a map unveiled last week by a federal special master will soon become law.
"The bottom line is ... the federal court is likely to order its plan into effect by the end of the week," said a Democratic attorney close to the situation.
The map drawn by special master Frederick Lacey, a former federal judge from New Jersey, deals with New York's loss of two House seats following the 2000 Census by pushing Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R) and Maurice Hinchey (D) into one district and putting Reps. John LaFalce (D) and Jack Quinn (R) together in another.
LaFalce could face off against Quinn in the new 26th district, which includes all of Buffalo or he may choose to run against Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) in the new 27th, which would shift to the west of Reynolds' current seat under the special master's plan.
Bruno is expected to halt negotiations with state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and accept the federal map despite the protestations of several House Republicans whose districts have been drastically altered.
Chief among the complainants has been Quinn, who at one point last week threatened to bolt the GOPto become an Independent or even a Democrat.
The five-term lawmaker now says that he will remain a Republican, though he remains anxious about the possibility that he will have to face the 14-term incumbent LaFalce.
"I am not going to switch parties,"Quinn said in an interview Monday, although he acknowledged that he told several of his colleagues on the House floor last Thursday that he was considering a switch.
"What I said was is that I would be better off as a Democrat,"admitted Quinn, whose new district, under the latest federal plan, would be one of the toughest seats for any Republican in Congress to hold.
By Quinn's estimate, 63 percent of the registered voters in the new district would be Democrats, up from 50 percent in his current district. Rep. Connie Morella (Md.) is the only Republican to seek re-election in a district more heavily Democratic.
Responding to suggestions that he was considering switching parties, Quinn said that a couple of days worth of reflection as well as a conversation with his wife managed to have a calming effect.
"That was just me expressing some frustration with the system for drawing these lines," he said of his earlier comments. "It's like performing surgery while on horseback."
Quinn also noted that he had received assurances that the National Republican Congressional Committee would put substantial resources into the race and that he expected President Bush to visit the Buffalo area this year to help boost his re-election campaign.
LaFalce and Quinn are roughly even in fundraising right now, and the new district would include a number of counties in which Quinn has previously run. Seventy percent of the new district would comprise Quinn's current territory.
"LaFalce said it's not a fair fight,"Quinn said, explaining that LaFalce thought the district favored Quinn. Sources said that the two men privately tried to work out a deal in which Rep.Amo Houghton's (R-N.Y.) district would be carved up and divided between them.
Several Republicans have worked to avert problems for both Quinn and Reynolds by encouraging Houghton to retire so his district could be split.
But GOP sources said that Bruno fought to keep Houghton's district intact so that his own candidate, state Sen. John Kuhl (R), could run there when Houghton leaves Congress.
"He has been totally intransigent," one GOP strategist said of Bruno. "He has blocked everything. Everyone I know in the state and here in Washington says it's the most unbelievable thing they've ever seen."
The wild card in all of the upstate machinations is LaFalce, who has played his cards close to the vest. House Republicans are nervous that LaFalce might challenge Reynolds, who is running to become the next NRCC chairman.
One Republican operative also expressed concern that the makeup of Reynolds' new district might force him to become more moderate, which could be awkward if he enters the GOP leadership.
The New York primary is Sept. 10, meaning that both parties have less than four months to put together their candidate fields.
The federal map would push GOP Reps. John McHugh, John Sweeney and Sue Kelly into new territory, raising the possibility of competitive primaries. Boehlert, a moderate, could also face a perilous primary challenge from a more conservative candidate.
House Democrats believe the new lines will give them a chance to mount strong bids against several Republican incumbents.
"This map puts Mr. Reynolds' district in play, puts Mr. McHugh's district in play, keeps [Rep. Felix] Grucci's [R] district in play and provides real opportunities to defeat [GOP] paired incumbents," said Howard Wolfson, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But Republicans countered that the map will give Democrats several problems of their own downstate.
Long Island Rep. Steve Israel (D) could get a challenge from Suffolk County legislator Allan Binder (R), and Rep. Eliot Engel (D) could face off against Yonkers Mayor John Spencer (R).
Republicans also hope to mount a strong race against Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D), who will face ex-Rep. Dan Frisa (R) in November.
Earlier this week, a state court-appointed special master, attorney Kenneth Bialkin, unveiled his own map, which was viewed as being more generous to Democrats than the federal map.
But state Senate Republicans were granted a motion in federal court Tuesday to take the state court out of the equation. That leaves just two possibilities: Lacey's map or a compromise map negotiated by state lawmakers.
Despite the complaints from some House Republicans, Bruno has said that he does not believe negotiations could produce a map any more favorable to the GOP than Lacey's.
Before the federal map was unveiled, Engel and Rep. Ben Gilman (R) were viewed as the lawmakers most likely to have their districts obliterated. While the jury is out on Engel's district - he is now less likely to face a competitive primary but more likely to draw a strong GOP opponent - Gilman has come away unscathed after aggressively making his case.
"Gilman did a very thorough job protecting himself," observed one Democrat.
The New York Times
Plan by Pataki Said to Remove House Seats of 2 Democrats
By Richard Perez-Pena
May 2, 2002
Albany, May 1 � Gov. George E. Pataki has drafted a congressional redistricting plan that would eliminate the seats of two Democrats, Carolyn B. Maloney of Manhattan and Maurice D. Hinchey of Saugerties, according to officials who have seen parts of the plan or discussed it with the governor's aides.
The plan, parts of which Pataki aides showed to members of Congress and their staffs on Tuesday and today, defies the conventional logic that New York will sacrifice one Democrat and one Republican. Under the reapportionment following the 2000 census, the state loses two of its 31 seats in the House of Representatives this year, and it is up to the Legislature and the governor to decide how to draw the lines.
Michael McKeon, Mr. Pataki's communications director, would not say whether the governor's office had a plan that focused on Ms. Maloney and Mr. Hinchey, though several members of Congress and congressional aides from both parties said the governor's office had circulated it in Washington. "We're continuing to look at a number of ideas, and anyone who suggests that the governor has made up his mind hasn't talked to the governor," Mr. McKeon said.
Officials here and in Washington say they have been told that Mr. Pataki intends to submit his plan on Monday to Federal District Court in Manhattan, which will hear a redistricting lawsuit that was filed pre-emptively, in anticipation of civil rights claims. "That's an option that we're looking at," Mr. McKeon said.
Eliminating two seats held by Democrats is very unlikely, both politically � the Democrats who control the Assembly would strongly resist such a move � and mathematically. Republican legislators and their aides have abandoned the idea of carving up two Democratic districts because it would push large numbers of Democratic voters into Republicans' districts, undermining their hold on their seats. New York's delegation now has 19 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
But the governor's plan puts him into a fight that leaders of the Assembly and Senate have insisted is theirs to resolve. It also makes his camp the first of the three to construct a proposal and put it on paper, which legislators say could give him a psychological edge, making his congressional lines the starting point for the coming struggle.
The Republican leaders of the Senate are preparing a plan of their own that would create two so-called fair-fight districts, pitting incumbents against each other, rather than slicing up two districts and distributing the pieces among their neighbors. "We're exploring where we could set up two fair fights, Democrat versus Republican," said Senator Dean G. Skelos, the leader of the Senate's redistricting efforts.
The likeliest downstate match-up, according to several prominent Republicans, is Eliot A. Engel, a Democrat whose district includes the north Bronx and part of Westchester County, against Benjamin A. Gilman, a Republican whose district extends from Westchester, across Rockland County and into the Catskills.
Several upstate match-ups are being considered, officials said, including one between Thomas M. Reynolds, a Republican from western New York, and Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from Rochester.
Historically, what are billed as fair fights between incumbents rarely are, and legislators in both parties said that if those were the pairings, they would probably be created to favor Mr. Engel and Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds is a favorite of both the governor, the House Republican leadership and the White House. Some Republicans consider Mr. Gilman as expendable because of his age, 79, his fairly liberal record and the fact that his district could easily go to a Democrat after he retires.
Assembly Democrats say they are not close to offering even a rough proposal. Several say Speaker Sheldon Silver has indicated that he would be content to throw the process to the courts in the belief that the result would favor Democrats, but Mr. Silver insists that he would not do that.
In a month, candidates are scheduled to begin to collect the signatures needed to put them on the ballot, but that process cannot begin until the district boundaries are in place. In 1992 and 1982, redistricting took so long that the Legislature was forced to postpone the signature-collection period, and in 1982, it also postponed the primary elections.
Before a plan can take effect, it must be approved by the Justice Department and the courts to ensure that minority voting rights are not infringed upon, further slowing the process.
Rather than wait for lawmakers to produce a final plan and risk missing deadlines again, last Friday a three-judge panel in federal court appointed a special master, Frederick B. Lacey, to draft a plan. The court's action signals to the Legislature and Mr. Pataki that if they do not create an acceptable plan in due time, the court will do it for them.
Lawmakers here do not want that because their own plan would strive to protect the incumbent members of Congress they are allied with, while a court-imposed plan would probably not.
Redrawing incumbency: New York's congressional district lines will change, but not with the public in mind
April 30, 2002
The state Legislature's task of redrawing its own districts, with a lazy eye on the 2000 census and a sharper one on 2002 re-election prospects, is complete. Now comes new boundaries for congressional seats -- safe ones, that is, for the people already holding them.
Democracy? Try incumbency. Nothing changes in New York. Bad government has a certain consistency to it.
The great challenge in Albany this spring is that while legislators were able to add a seat -- there now will be 62 senators, rather than 61, and 150 assemblymen -- they must redraw the map of congressional seats to account for the fact that the slow rate of population growth here, compared to other states, will leave New York with 29 representatives in the House, down from 31.
Two incumbents must be sacrificed, then. But no more. Not by the pace and intent of the state Legislature, surely.
A potential challenger to one of the surviving incumbents wouldn't know where to start. How do you run for Congress when you don't know what district you live in, what its boundaries are or what the makeup of the other districts is?
Sure enough, the incumbents will say they don't know what their districts will be, either. But a campaign that can't even start yet favors those already in Congress, with piles of money on hand for when their races do begin.
In just a month, petition drives begin to get on congressional ballots. Little time, then, to ponder such an expensive challenge to a House incumbent.
The redistricting delay could move back the Sept. 10 primary election. Good, perhaps, for anyone running against a legislator from his or her own party. But bad, of course, in that it would leave an outsider even less time for a general election campaign.
District lines have been settled in lots of other states, though. That includes California, with 52 seats to apportion and a very diverse population that must be represented, ought to make redistricting about as cumbersome as anywhere.
New York's sluggish approach to redistricting doesn't come cheap, though. The combined costs of redrawing legislative and congressional lines are in excess of $3 million -- more than it is in almost any other state. New York is one of the very few states that has a permanent staff in place to handle a task that must be done once a decade. The 15 people working at the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment make a total of almost $1.4 million. The price of lawyers and lobbyists to serve every established interest in state government drives the bill up further.
Not to worry, says Sen. Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican whose job it is to protect the GOP's control of the state Senate. Whatever it costs to ensure the right to vote, he says.
Just a thought: What if the redistricting process were a fairer one, and people started to exercise their right to vote incumbents out of office? Or if they simply voted in such a way as to make the elections more competitive? What would Mr. Skelos and the other legislators do then?
Redistricting lags; financial, political costs rise
By James M. Odato
April 29, 2002
The task of carving up new political boundaries this year has come with a multimillion-dollar price tag, and there will be a cost to democracy, government watchdogs say.
With the work half-done, the bill for redistricting stands at $3 million or more. The plans are so late, government reform groups say, that congressional and state legislative candidates seeking to oust incumbents will be at a great disadvantage.
It is no secret the lawmakers in charge of the process drew the new lines to give themselves and fellow incumbents a strong edge in the November elections. But the timing is making their position stronger.
"The cost to values that we hold dear to our democracy, meaningful choices and real reasons to vote, are certainly undercut not only by the lateness but also by the product -- lopsided districts that make the general election a formality,'' said Robert Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a Takoma Park, Md.-based government reform group.
Not all of the expenses have come in yet. The state is paying almost $1.4 million in wages annually for a 15-member team of cartographers, demographers, computer operators and other staffers on the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. The task force's full budget, including supplies such as computers and outside contracts for consultants and lawyers, is $2.2 million a year.
On top of that, the Republicans who control the Senate, the Democrats who run the Assembly and the minority parties in the two chambers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more on staff and other costs, according to legislative records. A lawyer hired and paid separately by the Assembly has earned $263,000 the past year and has a cap on his costs of $1.55 million.
The Senate GOP also signed a $1.5 million contract with a lawyer but says the costs are coming from the joint task force's budget.
Pataki has at least three state employees working on redistricting, including a former lobbyist he hired at $115,000 year. And the governor has retained a private lawyer to keep tabs on litigation.
Lawyers say that if lawsuits challenging the redistricting plans play out in court in lengthy litigation, the cost to New York taxpayers could easily double what has been spent. The task force, led by elected leaders, produced a legislative redistricting plan that already has been challenged in three lawsuits, and numerous other parties are intervening.
Daniel Chill, the Assembly's redistricting lawyer, said he expects the challenges to center on the Senate's alleged shortchanging of the number of districts with a majority of minority people.
Meanwhile, the task force has yet to produce a redistricting plan for New York's 29 congressional seats -- two fewer than a decade ago because of slower population growth than other states.
Many states, using Census 2000 data, completed redistricting plans for Congress and state lawmakers months ago, even such big states as California, which completed its redistricting work last fall.
New York's relative tardiness in getting the plans done -- and cleared by courts and the Department of Justice for compliance with the Voting Rights Act that requires maximum representation for minorities -- will cut into the time candidates will have to plan and implement campaigns.
"For a big state with lots of districts, New York is the latest,'' Richie said. "That really affects a lot of incumbents, a lot of challengers.''
"Only a few districts will actually be competitive in November. They really made it very difficult for challengers, particularly for Congress,'' he said.
New York government watchdogs have been appalled by the process. These groups, and Richie, said Iowa's redistricting system could be applied more cheaply and would result in nonpartisan mapping of districts.
"It's amazing this cost,'' said Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters. "If we thought democracy was served by this cost, that would be fine.''
But she and other critics say New York's way of redistricting plays into the hands of incumbents.
Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, his chamber's point man on redistricting, said he is sure the legislative plan will hold up to legal scrutiny.
He said he expects congressional districts to be drawn within 10 days, although much of the decision-making on which districts will be abolished must be negotiated among Pataki and the leaders of the two chambers, who still are struggling with a late state budget.
Further, he said, candidates will have ample time to campaign although the June 4 date to begin petition drives to qualify for a ballot line is fast approaching. He said the Legislature could delay the petitioning start date -- as it did 10 years ago -- and reduce the number of required signatures. The Sept. 10 primary date also may be delayed.
Told of the estimates for the cost of redistricting, Skelos said: "When you're dealing with people's right to vote, it's worth whatever we have to spend to get it done. You can't put a figure on it.''
He said voters typically don't get interested in elections until after Labor Day, so people interested in running for office will have time to get their campaigns going.
"People know roughly the area where they live and they know the incumbents, and in the city (New York City) it's going to be almost all Democrats and there will be primaries,'' Skelos said.
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By Chris Cillizza
April 29, 2002
Start Your Engines
The New York Legislature began the process of redrawing the state's Congressional lines last week, signaling the start of one of the last significant redistricting tussles in the country.
New York is slated to lose two Congressional seats after reapportionment, but from where those seats will come remains unresolved.
Early in the cycle most observers expected one seat to be eliminated from the upstate region and another from the New York City area, but slower-than-expected growth upstate has opened up the possibility that both seats will come from that region.
A number of Members who believe their districts are in jeopardy have taken matters into their own hands, led by Rep. Amo Houghton (R), who has twice rejected retirement in order to lobby to save his Southern Tier 31st district.
Republican Rep. Ben Gilman (R) remains a potential target. Democratic Reps. Louise Slaughter, Gary Ackerman, Eliot Engel, Maurice Hinchey and John LaFalce are all potentially vulnerable to the redistricting razor.
The majority of these Members have hired lobbyists with close ties to either state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) or state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R) in order to monitor the process and push to save their respective districts.
Due to the New York Legislature's split-party control, the most likely outcome is that one Democrat and one Republican will see their districts disappear. Gov. George Pataki (R) has veto power over any plan that emerges.
Filing closes in New York on July 11, and the primary is set for Sept. 10. Any plan approved by the state Legislature and Pataki must also be OK'd by the Justice Department in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
New York Times
Special Master Is Named to Help Redraw New York's Congressional Districts
By Tina Kelley
April 27, 2002
A panel of three federal judges appointed a special master yesterday to help draw the Congressional districts in New York State to reflect new census figures, a job the State Legislature is charged with performing.
The appointment marked the third time in the last 20 years that the courts named a special master for the task. In the past, a special master had been named to prod the Legislature into action and to warn lawmakers that if they did not draw the districts, the special master would.
In past years, the court set a deadline for redistricting so that districts could be redrawn in time for candidates to collect signatures on petitions for their campaigns.
This year, the appointment of the special master was made before a deadline had been set.
The court named Frederick B. Lacey, a former federal judge, the special master. His job is to divide the state into 29 districts of substantially equal population, down from 31. He must submit his plan for redistricting to the court on May 10, or soon after.
In their decision, the judges said they had to appoint a special master now because the city and state Board of Elections had advised them that time was running short.
"It is therefore necessary for this court to prepare for the possibility that this court will be required to adopt an appropriate redistricting plan," the judges wrote.
The Times Union
Election district changes advance Albany-- Revisions to plan approved earlier this month win support of Hispanic senators
By James M. Odato
April 23, 2002
Three Hispanic state senators joined the majority of Republicans to approve amendments to the legislative redistricting plan, perhaps helping to dampen a lawsuit by minority groups over the legislation.
State Sens. Efrain Gonzalez, Pedro Espada Jr. and Olga Mendez from New York City voted for the plan, which passed 40-18.
"I think it's a fair plan; it gave a little bit more numbers for the Manhattan minority seat. I guess that was what the governor's concerns were,'' said Gonzalez, D-Bronx.
Not everyone agreed, however, that those who backed the plan voted in the best interests of minorities.
"Olga Mendez always votes with the Republicans; Espada is a Republican,'' responded Luther Blake, leader of a coalition of New York City groups seeking a different plan to represent minority populations. At least four suits have been filed, charging the redistricting plan is unconstitutional, among other things.
The bill passed Monday slightly changes the original plan that Gov. George Pataki signed Monday, the deadline for him to veto or pass the measure. The revisions add another Hispanic Senate district in Manhattan and keep some Jewish communities more intact in two other Senate districts. The original plan passed earlier this month. But Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno said Pataki had raised concerns last week about the Senate's failure to create districts that would represent Dominicans in Brooklyn and Orthodox Jews in upper Manhattan.
At the time, Bruno hinted that the Legislature might engage in so-called "chapter amendments'' -- essentially adjusting parts of the redistricting bill.
The plan calls for 62 Senate seats, one more than the level authorized for the past decade, and gives New York City four more of the Assembly's 150 seats. Three Assembly seats are to be eliminated upstate and one will be lost from Long Island.
The Senate swiftly approved the measure while the Assembly waited until early evening to conclude its vote. Pataki signed the original redistricting legislation prior to the Assembly vote, anticipating the Assembly would go along with the amendments he sought.
The amendments shift a few blocks of downtown Schenectady from Democrat Paul Tonko to Republican James Tedisco's district so that Tedisco would not have to move his district office, Tedisco said.
The plan also will likely result in a Republican incumbent resigning to avoid a primary against a more senior GOP member. Assemblyman Jay Dinga of Endicott said he will announce his plans on Thursday. But he added he expects Assemblyman Clifford Crouch of Bainbridge to move into a proposed new district that includes a fraction of Dinga's current district and much of Crouch's current district.
Copyright � 2001 The Center for Voting and Democracy
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