Yesterday’s editorial in the Albany Times-Union on redistricting and campaign finance was another impassioned and well-reasoned statement about the need for reform in New York government. The editorial points out that electoral competition is inhibited by the state's current laws, which do little to limit the amount of money in politics and allow legislators (through a commission that does their bidding) to draw their own district lines. New York has had its fair share of problems stemming from foxes guarding the proverbial henhouse, and some, the Brennan Center included, believe that more should be done to wrest control of linedrawing from those who stand to benefit the most from it. Further, we agree the ball needs to start rolling on this now, well before the 2010 and subsequent redistricting. If not, politicians will continue to drag their feet, stalling until they can make the argument that there is not enough time to successfully implement an independent commission.
To blame redistricting and campaign finance for the dysfunctional legislature's problems, is, of course, not the whole story. Indeed, New York seem to like their incumbents despite stagnation and gridlock, reelecting these legislators by large margins (Joseph Bruno was not even opposed in the 2006 general election) in districts that are highly competitive in other races (presidential, gubernatorial, etc.). It is unclear whether Spitzer’s victory will signal new voting patterns, but it certainly pointed to a mandate for reform, which he has placed at the top of his agenda. Campaign finance reform, in particular, is crucial to leveling the playing field for quality challengers, which is, in turn, an important piece of maintaining a responsive and accountable government. And redistricting reform can ensure that those challengers aren’t suddenly drawn out of the districts where they have built support. In 2006, 52 candidates in the state legislature were unchallenged. The voters deserve a better choice.
In short, we give high praise to the Times-Union calling Majority Leader Bruno to action. Additionally, we recognize that the focus of the Governor’s agenda is to make our state legislature an institution responsive to all New Yorkers, and that deserves even more applause.
Categories: General, Redistricting