On March 15, 2012 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans for the passage of a constitutional amendment and statutes that reforms the election redistricting process in New York State thereby "putting an end to the partisan and incumbent-protection Gerrymandering* that has plagued the process for over a century."
The Governor said that "This agreement will permanently reform the redistricting process in New York to once and for all end self-interested and partisan gerrymandering." The Legislature, Governor Cuomo reported, has agreed to pass “this historic constitutional amendment twice by a specified date, and passing a tough statute that mirrors the amendment” thus taking “a major step toward finally reforming the state's broken redistricting process.
1. Constitutional Amendment: The Senate and the Assembly each agreed to introduce a resolution this session that will amend the state Constitution to establish a new redistricting process for both state legislative and congressional district lines. The separate statute discussed below requires the amendment to be passed a second time by both houses no later than January 30, 2013, at which point it will be placed on the ballot statewide for approval by the voters. The constitutional amendment will reform the redistricting process permanently beginning in the next cycle in 2020-22 as follows:
2. Statute: The Senate and the Assembly each agreed to introduce a statute to be approved by both houses that mirrors the constitutional amendment in all respects except for two additional elements. As set forth in greater detail in the statute's effective date provisions, the statute is intended to ensure that, if the constitutional amendment is not passed for the second time in 2013 notwithstanding the public commitments by the two houses to do so, the statute will become effective and the redistricting process will be reformed by statute just as it would have been by constitutional amendment. These provisions further provide that if either house fails to pass the constitutional amendment a second time before January 30, 2013, then that house shall lose its appointments to the independent redistricting commission established by the statute and the governor will instead appoint those members. This provides a significant incentive for the legislature to honor their statutory commitment to pass the constitutional amendment a second time.
In addition, the statute further includes a restriction on any amendments made by the legislature to a districting plan submitted by the commission such that no amendment may affect more than two percent of the population of any district in such plan. This will ensure that the legislature's amendments may tweak, but cannot fundamentally alter the commission's district lines. It also provides more specific deadlines for each step of the redistricting process that are most appropriately placed in a statute rather than in the constitution. Critically, these additional provisions will be effective if the voters approve the constitutional amendment or if the statute instead becomes effective.