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Across the state this summer, a little-known entity, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, has been conducting public hearings on redistricting reform.
Redistricting is a once-in-a-decade process in which district boundaries for state legislative and congressional seats are redrawn to reflect changes in population so they are equal or nearly equal in the number of people.
Decade after decade, LATFOR has drawn maps with one primary aim: ensuring incumbent legislators from the dominant party get re-elected. And it has been dramatically successful.
Since 1999, incumbents in the state Legislature have had a 96 percent re-election rate. Only 53 incumbents since 1982 have lost a general election because districts are drawn in a way that results in discouraging competition. The state Senate has been controlled by the Republican Party every year but two since 1965, and the state Assembly has been run by Democrats every year since 1974.
To establish their incumbents protection program, LATFOR carves competitors homes out of the district. They draw weirdly shaped districts while dividing communities and diminishing their ability to advocate for their interests. They marginalize growing minority groups to protect the old guard. Here in Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, it took until 2000 for the first Latino to be elected to the Senate and it was not until 2004 that the first Asian American was elected to the Assembly.
But Queens and the rest of New York have spoken loud and clear on the drawing of district lines. The public wants an independent commission not the partisan, Legislature-controlled LATFOR to draw state legislative and congressional district boundaries according to fair and objective criteria while allowing for robust public input into the process.
The Queens Civic Congress is part of a diverse redistricting reform campaign, ReShapeNY, consisting of 37 different organizations, including civic, issue-advocacy, labor and business groups united behind creating a more independent redistricting process.
Of the Legislatures 212 members, 184 including most Queens lawmakers pledged or co-sponsored bills that would change the states rigged process for drawing district lines.
Lawmakers need to return to Albany during a special legislative session to end partisan gerrymandering and enact redistricting reform by passing legislation to form an independent commission to draw impartial legislative and congressional lines.
Redistricting cannot wait until next year, which means next decade. Queens and the rest of New York deserve better than 10 more years of delay.
Queens Civic Congress
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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