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CRREO Plays a Role in Redistricting

Every 10 years in the United States a census is taken.  In New York census is used to redraw legislative district lines to reflect changes in population, and ideally demographics, in the State.

CRREO has been playing an active role in the redistricting process by creating alternatives to the plans proposed (and accepted) by the legislators themselves, as well as analyzing and commenting on the process and outcomes of redistricting throughout the state.  Some of our work has been published in newspapers throughout New York State.

A Note on Understanding These Redistricting Maps and the Accompanying Text


Commentary:

Effective NY:

Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Legislative Redistricting: A Report Card

Albany Times Union:

Encore for N.Y.'s redistricting farce

New York Observer (Politicker):

Grading the Redistricting Amendment

Buffalo News:

One-person-one-vote rule is key to fair redistricting in New York

Utica Dispatch:

Our view: Tell state leaders they need better redistricting plan

Assembly redistricting proposal carves up Oneida County

Newsday:

CRREO: New models for local districts

District Plans:

Dutchess County: Poughkeepsie Journal Article

Newsday Redistricting Initiative, and UMAP:

Overview

Nassau County

Suffolk County

Westchester County

Television Coverage:

YNN:

Congressional maps after Hudson Valley districts

Competition:

Fordham Law and Redistrict NY:

CRREO Judges the Redistrict NY Student Redistricting Competition

 


A Note on Understanding These Redistricting Maps and the Accompanying Text

1) Current Districts Were Not the Starting Point for Making These Maps.

These redistricting plans present entirely new districts, not modified versions of the current districts. The pre-existing district boundaries were not even examined or digitized until after the proposed districts were created. The term "Corresponds with Current District #" is provided as a rough guide for comparison. In fact, some proposed districts do not even roughly correspond to current districts; none of the proposed districts were created by changing the current ones.

2) Using an erroneous framing assumption leads to wrongly categorizing districts and "Gainers" or "Losers" under the alternative under study.

When comparing the proposed district plans, the tendency when trying to describe what would change is to say that the old districts move, or are extended, or that one portion is gained while another portion is lost to a neighboring district. This way of attempting to characterize the changes, and to explain them to the public, though in accord with natural inclinations, runs contrary to the very purpose of this project, and in fact to the redistricting process itself.

3) Consider this negative example:

In its coverage of the Nassau County Redistricting plan proposed by the Republican led County Legislature, the New York Times reported: "Less than a month after the release of 2010 census figures, Nassau Republicans on April 26 unveiled a proposal for the 19 legislative districts that would move about 572,000 residents — 44 percent of the total — to new ones...". While there are many criticisms that can be made of the plan, operating under the idea that the purpose of redistricting is to change the current districts to reflect the changes in the census numbers sends the wrong message. In any Nassau County redistricting plan, 100% of the county's 1,493,350 people will be in new districts because all of the districts will be new districts.

4) The status quo is inherently limiting.

By using the status quo as the starting point, the end result must necessarily be only marginally better (or worse) than the status quo. By wiping the map clean, and starting from scratch, real reform is possible. Some of the new districts may resemble some of the old ones. This is simply because the geography and built environment of Long Island has not changed, not all of the old districts were substantially distorted for incumbent protection and not all of the old districts were designed principally to deliver a district to one political party or the other or to protect the interests of one group or another.

5) Meeting defensible, neutral criteria for districting should be the standard for assessing the outcome.

Some of the current districts were drawn to represent communities and community interests. Others were not. The basis of comparison for the reform district plan should be the degree to which it better achieves equal representation and adheres to Federal Voting Rights standards while simultaneously recognizing communities and community interests. The big difference: effects on incumbents and the political ramifications of drawing the maps this way are a byproduct of ensuring that local communities are being equally and fairly represented.

 


  A Different Look for Dutchess

Joshua Simons, Ryan Reutershan and Gerald Benjamin

Thursday, May 12, 2011

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/

Dutchess County adopted a bi-partisan commission process for redistricting the county legislature in 2009. But after the legislative majority changed from Democrat to Republican it abandoned this idea, returning the task to the legislature itself.  At the SUNY New Paltz Center for Research Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) we decided to see what might have happened if the county had gone ahead with the commission process. We drew a 25 district map that honors town, city and village lines as much as possible, while meeting U.S constitutional on-person-one vote standards. Mindful of the Federal Voting Rights Act, we also sought to maximize representation for the county's cities, where much of Dutchess's minority-group population lives.  The attached map is the result.

Importantly, we drew this map without giving consideration to partisan registration and voting patterns, or to the residents of incumbent legislators.

The target population for a county legislative district in Dutchess after the 2010 census is 11,900. The most populous district in our map is #22 (East Fishkill), with 12,407 people. The least populous is # 18 (Red Hook), with 11,309 residents.  This plan also results in 4 contests pitting incumbents (if all choose to run) against each other, either in primaries or general elections.

They are:

New District 3 - Rob Rolison (R) vs.  Steve White (D) – City and Town of Poughkeepsie

New District 7 - James Doxey (C) vs. D.J. Sadowski (R) – Hyde Park

New District 9- Suzanne Horn (R) vs. Michael Kelsey (R) – Pleasant Valley & WashingtonNew

District 11 - Robert A. Weiss (R) vs. Sandra Goldberg  (D) – Wappinger & Town of Poughkeepsie

Many of these members are among the legislature's most influential: Rob Rolison chairs the body, while Sandra Godlberg is its Minority Leader.  Michael Kelsey was among the strongest proponent of the repeal of the 2009 law the created the independent commission.

Political scientists usually use a win by 55% of the vote or more as a standard to identify an election as less competitive. According to this criterion, none of these eight legislators was elected in 2009 in a competitive contest.

It is also true that districts without incumbents have generally been proved to be more competitive than those in which incumbents are seeking election. This plan produces four districts in which there in which no incumbent lives:

New District 1: City of Poughkeepsie

New District 8: Hyde Park

New District 12: Town of Wappinger, Village of Wappingers Falls & Town of Poughkeepsie

New District 22: East Fishkill

Competition is generally regarded to produce accountability and responsiveness to the people in representative systems. Members less certain of reelection listen harder and think more carefully about consequences before they vote. The districts presented in the attached map seem assured of producing at least eight competitive elections involving at least eight sitting legislators who are well known, but have faced less competitive races in recent years.

Moreover, because the census number permit it and our process gives priority to honoring municipal boundaries, this map preserves two districts that proved competitive in 2009, those is Red Hook, and Rhinebeck / Clinton.

Thus, if it were used, at least two-fifths of the elections for the Dutchess County legislature would likely be competitive in 2013.   Additionally, competitiveness may be advanced in other districts due to changes in their lines.

This is not the only way to slice the Dutchess County legislature pie to produce districts "substantially equal in population" that meet U.S. Supreme Court requirements.   It is not even the only non-partisan way to do the job.

But this outcome does show what one result might have been from a process not driven by the interest of a controlling party or incumbent legislators; it therefore provides a basis for comparison for citizens as the redistricting process in Dutchess County proceeds.

 

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CRREO wrote this article in the Opinion section of the Poughkeepsie Journal. Unfortunately, the online version did not display the maps, and the link provided to them is in a format that is not accessible for most people.  To ameliorate this issue, We are providing the maps for download as well:

(Click Images for High Resolution)

Current Legislative Districts

Proposed Legislative Districts


Newsday Redistricting Initiative, and UMAP:

On December 19th, 2011, CRREO published a series of independent redistricting plans for Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties in Newsday.  These are county legislative redistricting plans.  They were drawn using the principles of equal population, contiguity, compactness, respect for communities of interest, and are incumbent blind.  They were created to serve as a basis for comparison with the legislative plans that will emerge from the local redistricting process.  They are not the only way these lines can be fairly drawn, or even necessarily the best way, but these maps are examples of what the outcome of an impartial redistricting process could look like.  Here is an note on understanding the districting guides.

 


Nassau County Redistricting Plan:

The Nassau County Redistricting Guide was developed for Newsday, a newspaper in Long Island. The featured article can be found Here.

Download the full district guide here.

(Click on Images Below for Full Resolution)

Nassau Current

 

Nassau Proposed PLan

 


Suffolk County Redistricting Plan:

The Suffolk County Redistricting Guide was developed for Newsday, a newspaper in Long Island. The featured article can be found Here.

Download the full district guide here.

(Click on Images Below for Full Resolution)

Suffolk Current

Suffolk Proposed Districts

 


Westchester County Redistricting Plan:

The Suffolk County Redistricting Guide was developed for Newsday, a newspaper in Long Island. The featured article can be found Here.

Download the full district guide here.

(Click on Images Below for Full Resolution)

Westchester Current

Westchester Proposed Districts