Legislation (S.5160-B/A.229c) Requires County Redistricting to Follow Specific Guidelines Requiring Districts Be Drawn to Be Nearly Equal in Population, Contiguous and Not to Favor Incumbents or Parties
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.5160-B/A.229c) amending section 34 of the municipal home rule law to provide that regardless of any local law to the contrary, county reapportionment of members of local legislative bodies is first and foremost subject to state and federal constitutional requirements ensuring fairness and equity, and in furtherance of the principle of "one person one vote."
After a 1991 court decision, there have been efforts to modify the standards by which county legislative lines are drawn. All too often, county governments have attempted to manipulate redistricting for the political advantage of the party in power. This bill would ensure an end to that practice, and promote fair and non-partisan drawing of lines based on specific guidelines consistent with the constitution. Upon signing of this bill, lines must be drawn in a manner that ensures:
- Districts are as nearly equal in population as is practicable;
- Districts are not drawn with the intent or result of denying equal opportunity of racial or language minority groups to participate in the political process;
- Districts consist of contiguous territory;
- Districts are not drawn to favor incumbents or any particular party or candidate; and
- Form to promote orderly and efficient administration of elections.
"As bad actors across the country work to undermine public faith in our electoral institutions, the importance of clear and uniform rules to govern political representation has never been more critical," said Governor Hochul. "This law will ensure the entirety of our state is governed by rules that are derived directly from the federal and state constitutions and ensure the right to equal participation in our political process."
In the years since this bill was originally introduced in 2002, the consensus on which standards should govern redistricting has evolved. This bill updates the provisions of MHRL Sec 10(1)(a) (13) (a) and applies those provisions to charter counties by adding identical provisions to Section 34 of MHRL, which covers charter counties. Several of the standards included in this bill were part of the 2014 amendment to the New York State Constitution, which applied redistricting standards to the drawing of congressional and state legislative districts. By adding these standards to MHRL, they would also apply to the drawing of county legislative districts. The changes set forth in this bill will extend generally accepted standards for representation to all the people of New York.
Senator James Skoufis said, "For residents living in self-chartered counties such as the three I represent, this bill is a significant step towards preserving the will of the people by standardizing how legislative districts are redrawn. I want to thank Assemblymember Paulin for her steadfast commitment to this issue - an effort over ten years in the making - and I applaud the Governor for signing this critical reform just in time for the once-a-decade redistricting process."
Assemblymember Amy Paulin said, "Fair redistricting is fundamental to democracy. By requiring all counties in New York to follow set standards for fair legislative redistricting, this law keeps communities of interest whole, protects minority voting rights, and gives residents a clear, singular representative to advocate on their behalf. Thank you Governor Hochul for signing into law this necessary and long fought for legislation. Voters across New York State can now rest assured that their votes will not be diminished by the drawing of unfair legislative districts."
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