Redistricting reform

 

Redistricting reform pushed ahead of Census

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK | Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:01am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A practice in many U.S. states of allowing legislatures to redraw voting district lines to keep pace with population shifts allows politicians to hold onto power artificially, government watchdog groups say.

Bills have been introduced in several such states to create independent commissions to oversee redistricting instead, beginning in 2011 after the once-a-decade U.S. census count.

"American democracy has an incumbent-protection plan," said New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the sponsor of such a bill. "The redistricting process often undermines the ability of outsiders to effectively compete for political office.

"If you draw the lines right, you can do a really good job of locking in power for the course of a decade," he said.

A redistricting bill in New York has gained the support of Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Rick Lazio, the leading candidates for governor, but not the legislature.

The voting-district system divides up states by population, as counted by the census, and voters choose congressional and state-level candidates based on the district where they live.

New York Senate President Malcolm Smith was quoted as saying Democrats would "draw the lines so that Republicans will be in oblivion in the state of New York for the next 20 years."

He later said the remark was taken out of context.

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