ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Voters in New York state should reject a redistricting referendum on the fall ballot because it doesn't represent true reform and will give lawmakers a stranglehold on the process of redrawing the state's political districts, government watchdog groups said Monday.
The New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause and EffectiveNY released a report criticizing the ballot question, which will ask voters to authorize a new commission to handle redistricting beginning in 2022.
State political districts are redrawn every decade to account for population changes. NYPIRG, Common Cause and EffectiveNY say lawmakers have manipulated the process to protect incumbents. Sitting lawmakers have been defeated in elections only 55 times in the thousands of state legislative races held in the past 30 years.
Referendum supporters including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top lawmakers have argued that moving redistricting power from the Legislature to the commission will make the process fairer and bipartisan. But Blair Horner of NYPIRG said his group believes it's unlikely that the commission could ever be truly independent.
Eight of the 10 commission members would be appointed by top lawmakers. The Legislature would have the power to reject any redistricting proposal from the commission and could substitute their own in its place.
Horner said voters should hold out for true reform, not something that he said was merely called "independent."
"We have until 2020 before the redistricting process starts up again," Horner said. "What they have come up with isn't good enough. ... There really is no reform in this."