Note to state lawmakers: Fix your sham redistricting plan now or fix it later. Now is better. You already know that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will veto this joke proposal. By scrapping it now and replacing it with a plan that actually serves the interests of democracy, you can save time and perhaps even save face with New York's disgusted voters.
The plan is bad. As predicted, and despite Cuomo's clear position, legislators redrew their district lines to protect incumbents and, ultimately, the status quo. A classic case in point is Western New York's 60th State Senate District, now held by Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.
The Republicans who control the State Senate are eager to retain their slender majority there and know that means protecting Grisanti in what is an overwhelmingly Democratic district. So they made some changes. His current district is 5-1 Democratic; as redrawn, it is only 2 1/2 -1 Democratic. His proposed new district links parts of Buffalo with suburbs south of the city only along an unpopulated sliver of land along Fuhrmann Boulevard.
But by removing Niagara Falls from the map, the district would also have far fewer African-American voters. That weakens African-Americans' voting strength and for no higher purpose than to allow Republicans to retain control of the district.
Redistricting occurs after every census and is necessary to preserve the concept of one person, one vote. Because district populations change over the course of a decade, lines must be redrawn to make sure that elected officials represent equal numbers of people in the chambers of government.
But as the requirement is practiced in New York -- and elsewhere -- politicians use the process to pick their voters before voters ever get to pick them. That makes elections less competitive, creating calcified legislatures in which members are free to vote without regard for what their constituents want.
Thus, members of the New York State Legislature have been able to vote the wishes of their high-dollar donors -- public employee unions and trial lawyers, for example -- without worrying much about voters' concerns. That is one of the principal reasons New Yorkers pay the highest cumulative tax bill in the nation.
Help is at hand. Cuomo ran for office promising to veto any redistricting plan that was based on political considerations -- a promise he has repeatedly reaffirmed. The plan that state lawmakers produced is overtly political and is facing a veto.
Lawmakers should fix this problem now or prepare to hand the matter over to the courts, where a judge will supervise the redrawing of district lines. Most people would find that humiliating, but perhaps not lawmakers who are more interested in power than representation.
Whatever the outcome of this year's redistricting, lawmakers should commit now to creating an independent, nonpartisan commission to take charge of the redistricting that will follow the 2020 census. Let's fix that one now, before New Yorkers once again find themselves in the same old mess.