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Letters: It is time for redistricting reform

To the editor:

The time has come for New Yorkers to take back their vote. The League of Women Voters of Cazenovia believes this can come about only if legislators support an independent, nonpartisan commission for redrawing Assembly and Senate districts in response to the 2010 census.

Approximately 77 percent of New York State Senators were elected or reelected in 2010 after having signed the New York Uprising pledge to support an independent redistricting commission. Unfortunately, there are early indications that for some this pledge is not worth the paper on which it is written. If New York is to have a state legislature that is responsive to the interests of constituents, rather than keeping itself in office, citizens must demand this change from their legislators.

Why does nonpartisan redistricting matter? Every 10 years the state legislature is asked to redraw its legislative districts in response to the new census numbers. Traditionally legislators have drawn the lines to maintain their own partisan majorities and protect incumbents. As a result, New York's elections are notoriously uncompetitive. Without strong competition in our electoral system, meaningful discussion of public policy has taken a back seat to partisan rhetoric, and unrealistic budgets have brought this state's finances to the precipice.

Failure to shift the responsibility for drawing lines to an independent commission will enable our legislature to remain an "incumbent protection program" rather than the representative institution it was designed to be.

In the 2010 election, New York State had one of the lowest rates of voter participation in the nation. This is no surprise. Why should people vote if they face no real choice in candidates?

Voters of this state deserve better. We ask the state's citizens to contact their state legislators and to insist that they support an independent redistricting commission.

Wendy Taylor

President

Cazenovia League of Women Voters

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