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A slap at democracy; State Legislature's self-serving redistricting is politics at its worst

On Wednesday, in a meeting with The News editorial board, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would block any state redistricting plan that smacked of politics. Two days later and hardly 24 hours after the prepesterous state plan was unveiled -- he reiterated his pledge. The plan is toast.

Most egregiously, lawmakers who once again controlled the process sought to add new districts, including a Senate district in the Albany area that is plainly designed to help Republicans retain control of that chamber.

Locally, Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, had his district redrawn to exclude unfriendly areas. His new, oddly shaped district includes parts of North Buffalo and suburbs south of the city, linked only by an unpopulated sliver of land along Fuhrmann Boulevard. It is gerrymandering at its worst.

We sympathize with Grisanti and even with Senate Republicans, who are being slowly squeezed out of power. It is important to have a balance in the Legislature, and while the Republican Senate for years was no friend to New York's beleaguered taxpayers, Democrats were even worse when they briefly controlled the chamber.

Grisanti has also been a breath of fresh air, following the misrule of his Democratic predecessor, Antoine Thompson. He showed real political courage in changing his position to support same-sex marriage in New York.

But first comes electoral fairness. Without competitive elections, New Yorkers have virtually no chance of holding legislators accountable. If members of the Senate and Assembly actually have to think about the potential consequences of how they represent their constituents, there would be a much greater chance of responsible governance.

Redistricting, as it has been practiced in New York -- and as it appears in Grisanti's new district -- kicks away the notion of accountability. Instead, the majority parties in each chamber draw districts meant to discourage challenges and preserve their power for another decade. It is a cynical and democratically abusive process in which lawmakers pick their voters rather than the other way around.

These legislators promised in 2010 to take the politics out of redistricting. Former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, on a mission to reclaim the Legislature for New Yorkers, persuaded many of them -- including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos -- to sign a pledge. They lied.

Cuomo has been as good as his word, and promised on Friday to reject this maneuver. Legislators can either try to override the veto -- an unlikely outcome -- or redraw the maps. At some point, though, the matter is likely to be decided in court.

As disruptive as that might be, it would be better than tolerating this contemptuous stab at the heart of New York's democracy.