Professor Gerry Benjamin, an expert on the mechanisms of government at State University of New York at New Paltz, was asked by Citizens’ Committee for an Effective Constitution to take a look at Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s much-touted redistricting amendment and grade it point-by-point against what a truly independent amendment would look like.
Unsurprisingly, he found it wanting. He gave the amendment a ‘C-’ overall on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale.
The amendment, which passed in the State Senate by a 36 to 0 vote when the Democratic conference walked out in protest, and by 117 to 12 in the State Assembly, will need to be voted on by a subsequent legislative session and then by the public in order to become law.
Some of his biggest criticisms were over the probability of gridlock, the defaulting to the Legislature should such gridlock occur, and incumbent protection measures. However, Mr. Benjamin wasn’t entirely negative, he rated a couple of the points highly, including the requirement that redistricting information be ‘widely available’ to the public.
Despite the silver lining, Mr. Benjamin said the good was outweighed by the bad, and he intended to vote against the proposal should it make its way to a public vote.
“Some good government groups argue that this is the best we can do, ‘close enough for government work,’” he concluded. “I think we can do a lot better. If this amendment actually reaches the ballot I will vote No. And then I will work in support of calling a constitutional convention, where genuine serious reform of the legislative districting process will be a primary goal.”
View Mr. Benjamin’s report card below: