It has divided good-government groups, alienated some liberals and reformers from the governor, been ruthlessly edited for veracity by a State Supreme Court justice and, with Election Day just a little more than three weeks away, virtually ignored by the voters. Still, Proposal 1 will be on the statewide ballot Nov. 4 and, given the way things work in Albany, is likely to benefit whichever party wins control of the State Senate after the next decennial census in 2020. Democrats comfortably control the Assembly; the Senate has teetered between the two parties. In theory, at least, the compromise proposal would amend the State Constitution to change the way state legislative and congressional districts are drawn after every census, a process that traditionally has been meticulously, if sometimes awkwardly, designed to favor incumbents.
Under existing law, districts are created by a six-member legislative task force, with the majority leaders of the Senate and Assembly each picking two members and the minority leaders each choosing one. The districting plan is subject to approval by the Legislature.
Proposal 1 would establish a 10-member commission, with two members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders. Those eight individuals would, in turn, name two more members, neither of whom could be an enrolled Democrat or Republican.
After holding 12 hearings, the commission would submit a plan. If the Legislature rejects that plan twice, it could then amend it as it saw fit.
Last month, a state judge ordered the Board of Elections to delete the word “independent” from the description of Proposal 1 that will appear on the ballot since most of the commission members would in fact be named by the Legislature, which could also reject the commission’s redistricting recommendations.