To the editor: This Election Day there will be two proposals on our ballots to amend our New York State Constitution. Proposition 1 calls for reforming the legislative redistricting process. Proposition 2 streamlines the state Legislature to allow the use of technology and create a paperless Legislature. I ask that you vote “yes” on both of these changes. Proposition 2 is straightforward. When our Constitution was written it required that all bills introduced, of which there were approximately 18,000 this year, be printed on paper on legislators’ desks for at least three days prior to being voted on.
This amendment would change our Constitution to eliminate the paper requirement and allow for the use of electronic or digital review, saving us money and eliminating the need for printing and recycling of huge numbers of paper bills, simultaneously protecting our environment. The three-day rule of review would still apply, but tablets, laptops, or the latest technology available could be used.
Proposition 1 is much more complicated. Right now, every ten years, after the U.S. Census is completed, the state Legislature creates new districts for the Assembly, Senate and the U.S. Congress, based on changes in population.
The political parties that control each house make the decision for that house. The minority parties have virtually no role in the decision-making process. This amendment would change this to require a Redistricting Commission comprised of ten individuals – eight equally representing each of the major and minority parties in each house and two selected by those eight commission members. Those two cannot be registered for the past five years in either the Democratic or Republican Party. The new Redistricting Commission will conduct 12 statewide public hearings and then develop a redistricting plan based on specific criteria including: an equal number of people required in each district, communities of interest would be protected, minority voting rights would be guaranteed, boundaries would be kept contiguous and compact, etc. This plan will be submitted to the Legislature for approval. If it is not approved, it will be revised and submitted again for approval. If it fails to get approval again, the Legislature will have to create a plan following the same guidelines….now written in the state constitution. This proposal gives us the best possibility of having an independent process for reforming the legislative redistricting procedure. It was difficult to get legislators to even vote for this modest proposal, so I believe it would be nearly impossible to achieve what may be better options proposed by other groups. Without your “yes” vote it may be our last opportunity for decades to try to accomplish this very important goal. Sincerely, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, 95th Assembly District.
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