We have to hand it to Albany. Just when you thought our state legislators couldn’t get any more underhanded, they go up the ante.
This past week, it was the story of redistricting maps that tipped the scales. The sorry story of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment can be found on page 15.
The long and short of it is that every 10 years, this tiny panel gets together and redraws the state Senate and Assembly lines in light of new census data.
This is a good idea, on the face of things. It’s supposed to make the districts equitable in terms of population, so every legislator is theoretically representing an equal portion of the state.
What happens in practice is exactly what you’d expect when you give a small number of lawmakers direct power over the political process itself — they take that charge and do whatever necessary to benefit themselves and their party by solidifying their own holdings and cutting out their opponents.
It’s not hard to find examples of this. Of the current Senate boundaries, the 51st district, represented by Republican James Seward, has been derided for years as an image of Abraham Lincoln riding a vacuum cleaner (the 51st has been redrawn in LATFOR’s latest offering to dismount Lincoln, but mostly leaves the vacuum cleaner).
This deliberate gerrymandering has long been an acknowledged fact of New York State government, but this year’s LATFOR commission took things to new heights. Now, preposterous district shapes are the rule rather than the exception. Even Old Abe’s crooked mount pales in comparison to the new 20th Senate District, in the Kings area, which looks like a demented steam shovel.
They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore.
Any legislator who can say this district was drawn with strictly the voters in mind and keep a straight face probably has a good chance at achieving higher office, because that person would be a very, very good liar.