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Archive for February, 2010

From the Legislative Gazette.

As the 10-year redistricting process for New York draws near, more attention is being paid to proposals for improving the process used to determine how Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines are drawn in the state.

Last week the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government and the League of Women Voters held a forum in Albany to discuss legislative redistricting.

The panel, which consisted of Assemblyman Daniel Burling, R-Warsaw; Assemblyman William Parment, D-North Harmony; counsel to Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, D-Brooklyn, Jeffrey Wice; Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Research Group legislative director; and Gerald Benjamin, who was named a distinguished professor of political science and now serves as director of the SUNY New Paltz Center for Regional Research Education and Outreach, pointed out different ways to make redistricting more fair.

Horner indicated support for a Senate bill (S.1614) sponsored by David Valesky, D-Oneida, that would amend the state legislative law to create an 11-member reapportionment commission. The leaders of the minority and majority conferences in both house of the Legislature would name eight of those members. Each leader would get two appointments. Those members, in turn, would appoint the other three people, one of whom would serve as chair of the commission.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 11:49

From the Washington Times.

Prison populations have historically been included in national head counts, but now census officials will make data on inmate populations available to states earlier than in the past.

This change will allow states to decide whether to count inmates for purposes of redistricting. If a state makes that choice, it would have to decide where inmates should be considered residents – in rural towns, where prisons are often built, or in cities, where many prisoners come from.

Small tweaks in census figures can have large consequences, determining, for instance, which states get or lose an extra seat in the House of Representatives and how tax money is doled out between jurisdictions within a state.

Until now, the U.S. Census Bureau provided breakdowns on group quarters, like prisons, only after states had finished their redistricting. That resulted in districts with prisons getting extra representation in their legislatures, despite laws in some states that say a prison cell is not a residence.

The jockeying is all part of a decennial rite – counting the population. The federal government relies on the census not only to learn about Americans and their lives but also to parcel out federal dollars. As required by the Constitution, the census also is used to determine the number of House seats representing each state.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 08:07

Here’s one for those of you follow redistricting and census matters.   In short, this prison based gerrymandering uses prison population figures as part of the line drawing process for districts where the prisons are located.  From the Albany Times Union:

A group of three upstate Democrats whose districts include or are near large prison populations have found themselves pitted against mostly downstate urban senators who want to exclude inmate counts from redistricting, which will start next year.

Concerns by upstate Democrats Bill Stachowski, David Valesky and Darrel Aubertine about the push to end what advocates call prison-based gerrymandering provides an up-close example of how Senate Democrats, who are clinging to power with a 32-30-vote majority, remain split on many issues.

The latest rift opened last week when a coalition of groups rallied behind a bill sponsored by Manhattan Sen. Eric Schneiderman.

The measure would let New York exclude inmate counts from legislative districts when the state conducts its once-a-decade redistricting.

Traditionally, the redistricting, which results in heavy gerrymandering, relies on U.S. Census data for the population counts.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 3 February 2010 11:41

From the Dayton Daily News.

Democrats who control the Ohio House have outlined a plan that they say will take partisan politics out of drawing up legislative districts.

State Rep. Tom Letson, aDemocrat from Warren, introduced a bill Monday that would create a five-member Apportionment Board to draw district maps in a way that would ensure competitive elections, instead of one party enjoying a lopsided advantage.

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Last Updated on Monday, 1 February 2010 05:32

From the Muncie Free Press:

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita praised the Indiana Senate for passing redistricting reform legislation that would establish guidelines for the legislative redistricting process following the census in 2011. The Senate also passed legislation that would establish a redistricting study committee to examine best practices from other states, including the practice of an independent commission to draw the maps.

“I am deeply impressed by the bipartisan leadership on this issue in our state Senate,” said Secretary Rokita. “I understand that Senate Democrats were disappointed that an independent commission could not be established for the 2011 redistricting cycle. However, we should all take heart in the guidelines they have established in Senate Bill 80. These guidelines will begin to shift the importance from who draws the maps to how they are drawn.”

Secretary Rokita’s office began a statewide discussion on redistricting reform in September 2009. Since then, his office has mobilized a grassroots effort to bring this issue to the Indiana General Assembly. To date, Hoosiers have written nearly 900 letters to legislators through, calling for redistricting reform in Indiana.

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Last Updated on Monday, 1 February 2010 09:22