Do the new redistricting lines represent a GOP power grab. Uh, yeah.

Republicans in the state Senate are huffing about constitutional requirements and the need to create new minority voting districts, but the LATFOR plan released this week is really designed to do one simple thing:  maintain a fragile GOP majority.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in New York state by 2.4 million people — that’s a 59-33% tilt — but Republicans have used gerrymandering for decades to bolster their electoral fortunes.

They currently hold only a one-seat advantage.  As the state’s population shifts downstate, and grows more ethnically diverse, this set of maps is a lifeboat designed to keep a half-dozen Senate Republicans from drowning in the demographic flood.

While redrawing the lines this time, Republicans not only created a new Senate district in the Capital district that they are likely to control.

They also edited veteran Democratic lawmakers out of their own districts and pitted at least six Senate Democrats against one another in re-election fights.

Meanwhile, not a single Republican lawmaker faces serious disruption or an intra-party battle.

Some journalists are couching this in sort of a he-said, she-said narrative.  As in, “Democrats are crying foul, but Republicans say their hands were forced by the state constitution.”

Please.  This is one of those political stories where the real question isn’t motivation, but effectiveness and ramification.

We know what Republicans were trying to do — and we see how they’re trying to do it.  Now we’re waiting to find out whether it will work.

First, it’s fair to ask whether in political terms the GOP has simply gone too far.  Will these maps prove so extreme that Governor Andrew Cuomo — who was sounding ambivalent — will be left with no option but to exercise a veto?

My sense is that Cuomo has been perfectly happy with a divided legislature, and felt no real zeal for entering into a major constitutional clash with Republicans.  Has his hand been forced?

Perhaps if GOP leaders in the Senate had been a little more subtle, they might have preserved their majority without prompting a full-scale political and legal crisis?

Secondly, it’s a simple fact that Democrats in the state Senate have been a pretty inept bunch, blowing their brief majority, then failing to mount any kind of serious fundraising or messaging efforts to regain lost seats.

A friendly redistricting map was really their only hope in 2012.

So are they organized enough to fight this LATFOR plan?  This moment will be a big test for them.

If they bungle it, look for Democrats in the Senate to remain sort of institutionalized as the ineffectual opposition party for a long time to come, despite their relatively high popularity.

Finally, it’s only reasonable to point out that this political map, tilted as it is, is great news for the North Country.

If it stands, the plan will almost certainly preserve the majority power of Senators Patty Ritchie, Joe Griffo, Betty Little and Hugh Farley.

And by giving Farley a big new chunk of the region, it will actually expand this region’s voting clout in Albany.

The alternative could well be having only three state Senators reflecting the region, and all of them trapped in the minority.  The last time that happened, the North Country lost two state prisons.

Is this process fair?  Of course not.  But as brazen power grabs go, this one favors the North Country in a big way.

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10 Comments on “Do the new redistricting lines represent a GOP power grab. Uh, yeah.”

  1. Paul says:

    “”Democrats are crying foul, but Republicans say their hands were forced by the state constitution.”"

    Brian, I don’t know much about this. What does this mean?

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans voted with their brain (presuming they have one) rather than toeing the line with party dogma?
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the voters did the same thing?
    What if the Democrats ran sensible candidates who defeated Republican candidates in this gerrymandered mess?
    Wouldn’t that be interesting?

  3. JDM says:

    Had the Democrats not taken such a schellacking last November, they would be more in control of the redistricting process, and the media would either ignore it, or applaud it.

  4. TomL says:

    Sorry, but everyone loses when you have gerrymandered districts. Noncompetitive districts breed complacency and corruption. In both the majority and minority parties.

  5. Phil Brown says:

    Joseph Griffo’s district, which includes the western edge of the Adirondack Park, may be the most gerrymandered in the state. It stretches 145 miles from south of Utica to Massena. At its narrowest point it is only four miles wide. What to the suburbs of Utica have in common with Cranberry Lake or Massena? Click the link below to see a map of the district:

    http://adirondackexplorer.org/out-takes/2012/01/27/the-strange-shape-of-senate-district-47/

  6. Peter Hahn says:

    We would be much better off with simpler districts and maybe more competitive ones. The “elected officials” – if they draw the boundaries – are (naturally) going to draw them to their personal and party advantage. Thats why some other body should do it.

  7. Mervel says:

    I don’t think they should have to be competitive, somehow they should represent the will of the people (which of course is VERY hard to do and that is why this is complex). But I mean I often vote Republican, but it really makes no sense that we have either house in NYS be controlled by Republicans. The will of the people in NYS is Democratic, so why would you have a majority in one house in NY be Republican? The only way you can do that is through gerrymandering, it does not really reflect the will of the people of NYS.

    Other states are facing this also. Texas has a pretty big case in court right now with their re-districting. They have the other issue from NY, they are adding districts to represent their growing population. But when the legislature drew the maps, guess what the Republicans got the new districts.

    65% of this new growth of Texas in the past 10 years is Hispanic, 40 % of Texas is now Hispanic, does this demographic usually vote Republican? Is this representative of the will of the people? Probably not and this will likely be overturned as it should be.

  8. It’s interesting all the legislators who signed Koch’s pledge for independent redistricting and who’ve now betrayed their promise. No wonder there’s so much cynicism about politicians, though I can’t say I really believed them in the first place myself.

  9. Mervel says:

    Self preservation and selfishness in general, is a very very strong force in our lives. If you have power and a position only a small percentage of people will sacrifice that power and position for the good of the majority.

  10. scratchy says:

    “The will of the people in NYS is Democratic, so why would you have a majority in one house in NY be Republican? The only way you can do that is through gerrymandering, it does not really reflect the will of the people of NYS.”

    Yes and no. A lot of people (like myself) and split their tickets by voting democratic for president and congress but supporting republican candidates for legislature, as the NY GOP tends to be more moderate than the national party and is generally more supportive of the needs of the north country than the NY Democrats are.

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