- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf With Redistricting on the Line, State Senate Results Still Too Close to Call | Bronx News Networkbronx

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

With Redistricting on the Line, State Senate Results Still Too Close to Call

As the New York Times reported earlier, it’s looking like yesterday’s election results could end in a 31-31 split of Democrats and Republicans in the State Senate, or with the Republicans taking a victory and Democrats losing the slight majority they won in 2008.

Three races--one on Long Island, one in Westchester and another in Buffalo--are still too close to call, and will probably await the counting of absentee ballots.

The stakes are especially high this election, as 2010 Census figures are being calculated and the state legislature will take on redistricting over the next year or two.

Redistricting, or the redrawing of legislative district maps, lies in the hands of the legislature in Albany. Whatever party happens to be in power can lay the groundwork for a victory in the next several elections by ensuring districts work to their party’s favor.

“It’s huge,” said Christina Greer, a professor of politics at Fordham University. “It only happens every 10 years. The party in power really does get to, literally, draw the lines for districts that are the most  advantageous to them.”

That means a Democratic representative could map their district based around where liberal voters are likely to reside—usually communities of color or areas near liberal educational institutions—and vice versa.

Who will get the redistricting upper hand if the Senate gets split 31-31? Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, who is leaving his post this year after opting not to run for re-election, thinks it would force Albany to come up with a new system for redrawing the maps, like appointing an independent body to do it, something good government groups have long fought to see done.

A Republican-Democrat stalemate could have bigger implications for Albany.   

“Forget gridlock, you’ve got total deadlock,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor at the School for Public Affairs at Baruch College. “That’s the case if the Republicans don’t work with the Democrats, and vice versa.”

Muzzio says that newly elected Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy could potentially step in as a tiebreaker on procedural issues, like appointing Senate leadership positions, but not to end an impasse on getting a bill through.

Benjamin was more optimistic.

“I believe it will force the two sides, after two years of fighting, to work together,” he said, adding that he’s encouraged by the newly elected Governorship of Andrew Cuomo, who's a Democrat but aligns with the Republican Party on certain issues and said he’ll work in the center between both parties.

“Cuomo will work with both sides. And I’m hoping the two leaders [of each party] will free their members to vote their conscience, and not the party lines,” Benjamin said.

Greer agreed.

“I think we'd see a lot of interesting coalitions,” she said.

As we learned last year, even a slight margin of a majority for either party is not necessarily conducive to productivity. When the balance of power between parties is based on just a few representatives, the stage can be set for a coup, like the one that shut down Albany for nearly a month in the summer of 2009.

“You’ve still got the potential of people defecting,” Muzzio said. “I mean, you don’t have Monserrate anymore, or Espada anymore, but in a close body, anyone can turn.”


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