Flashback: How another Cuomo explained his decision to sign gerrymandered lines into law

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Mario Cuomo. ()
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First, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed to put in place an independent redistricting process, and promised to veto the results of legislative redistricting done the old, partisan way.

Then it became clear that his legislation wasn't going anywhere in the Republican-held State Senate, but Cuomo stuck to his promise to veto lines produced by the legislature, effectively turning discretion over redistricting to the courts.

Then, most recently, Cuomo said that he would veto the ridiculous initial offering of the legislature's redistricting task force, but would be open to a compromise in which he would approve some version of legislatively drawn lines this year in exchange for a commitment to make the process independent in time for the next round of redistricting a decade from now. 

As recently as last night, the governor has maintained that his positions have been consistent all along.

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Cuomo isn't the first governor to grapple with whether to accept or veto gerrymandered lines drawn by the New York State legislature. In fact, he's not even the first governor named Cuomo to do so.

Here, from an extraordinary "memorandum of explanation" that the former governor wrote in place of the usual approval message he wrote to accompany bills he signed into law, is Mario Cuomo on why he signed into law gerrymandered district lines that he acknowledged were deeply flawed.

"If our Legislature does not draw them, they will be drawn by strangers whom we did not elect and who are not directly accountable to the citizens of the State for their judgement," the elder Cuomo warned.

Mario Cuomo also said the Assembly and State Senate lines that had been presented to him were "intertwined," and therefore had to be considered together.

"The question then becomes, do I veto the bills in order to strike down what seems to me the inadequate Senate plan," the elder Cuomo wrote at the time.

He said the Republican-controlled State Senate failed to accept his suggestions for how to improve the lines, but that in the end, was between accepting them or not having new lines at all.

"Experience with redistricting elsewhere demonstrates that elections could well take place along existing invalid district lines. Given the Legislature's performance in redistricting thus far, there is more than a serious possibility that a veto would simply allow the Legislature to achieve the ultimate incumbent protection -- elections on existing lines.

"On the other hand, if I allow this apparently defective plan to stand, the objections I have will be reviewed by both the Department of Justice and the Courts … If I am wrong in my belief that the bill is defective, we shall find out sooner, without prejudicing the rights of voters and legislators. If I am correct, then the people's right to select representatives of their choice will not only be vindicated, but vindicated in time for genuine contests this Fall.

"On that basis alone, I am signing these bills."

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