As goo-goos despair, a reform legislator says court-drawn lines are still the ‘most likely outcome’

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Gianaris calls for an open hearing on redistricting. ()
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Advocates who were hoping to see New York's congressional and legislative lines redrawn by an independent body have long since given up hope of that happening. The decennial process, as usual, is being guided by self-interested "insiders," according to a Times headline.

This week, the lawmakers running the redistricting process are expected to reveal the lines they came up with. (A lawmaker told me they may release Assembly and Senate lines as soon as today, but not congressional ones.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who came up with a plan to create an independent redistricting body that went nowhere in the Republican-controlled State Senate, has promised to veto the legislature's lines, which would in turn trigger court involvement in the process. The question then would be whether the court would effectively seek to overhaul the legislature's lines in time to have them in place for next year's primaries, or merely tweak them in an effort to make them more "fair."

State Senator Michael Gianaris of Astoria, a longtime advocate for redistricting reform, still believes someone other than his legislative colleagues will end up drawing the district lines.

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"I think the most likely outcome is that a court is going to determine the district lines," he told me. "The fact that Senate Republicans are purposely delaying the process, in an attempt to jam the courts with a plan that is unfair, is unlikely to work."

Here's how things will unfold, Gianaris said.

The Legislative Task Force on Redistricting (LATFOR) "will put out their draft this week. They will have a series of hearings around the state and then produce a second and final draft that presumably they will vote on and pass, because they have the majority."

Then, comes the real test.

"At that point, the question is called and the governor either has to have a process in place that he's comfortable with, or will veto," Gianaris said.

I asked Gianaris if he thought there was any chance the governor might in the end seek some sort of compromise with the legislature that would avoid a veto.

"Well, you'll have to ask him, but he's been very clear that the process itself is at fault here, and so, it's my understanding that his position is LATFOR itself, as a non-independent body, is unsatisfactory," he said.

Until then, Gianaris said, there's not much for advocates to do, other than "wait and continue to advocate for reform in the hopes that we'll get a fair result."