Writing for The Times Union, Chris Churchill makes these points:
- Republicans and Democrats both do it.
- There is nothing new about it.
- The worst examples of gerrymandering are fundamentally unethical.
- What Democrats have done on the state level can only be described as a power grab.
- New York’s new maps are an outrage.
I disagree with the last two points:
- Democrats are in the majority in state Senate and Assembly; they aren’t grabbing what they already have.
- New York’s new maps are relatively benign; look at the picture above for an extreme example.
It (gerrymandering) intentionally renders districts uncompetitive, stealing choice from voters while exacerbating polarization.
NY-23 became more competitive after the 2000 census, which did steal choice from voters–Democrats in Tompkins County whose voices were muted in a majority Republican District.
Another thing that steals choice from voters is the lack of Republican primaries. In districts such as NY-23, The Republican Party, not the voters, effectively picks our representative.
NY-23 Democrats now are in a more heavily Republican district; one could say their voice has been muted. Yet Democratic voices are amplified when NYS sends more Democrats to the Capitol.
Democrats keep telling voters they’re the party that cares about democracy and is trying to save it. But New York Democrats have rendered their rhetoric hollow with a redistricting plan that undermines democracy.
There is no method for redistricting that would satisfy everyone. In this country, state legislatures are responsible; in some states, anything goes. Democrats can’t reform the process with Federal legislation without Republican cooperation, which isn’t forthcoming.
What they (Democrats) really care about is obvious. They care about power.
No doubt that’s true of most politicians and political parties. But Democrats do play by the rules, and the rules today are loose. Democrats would like to tighten the rules, but the undemocratic Federal Senate stands in the way.