Gerrymandering Practices Subvert Democracy, NYCLU Testifies

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
October 17, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York State Legislature must end the political redistricting practices that have denied New Yorkers their constitutionally protected right to a meaningful vote, the New York Civil Liberties Union told state lawmakers today.

“For our electoral system to operate fairly, our government must remain neutral in administering it,” NYCLU Legal Director Art Eisenberg said. “As of now the state of New York is drawing electoral district lines so as to predetermine the outcome of the general elections. It is high time for the legislature to put an end to that practice.”

Eisenberg presented testimony before the New York State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. The legislature is currently considering three proposals that would address redistricting. The NYCLU said any proposal lawmakers choose should include mechanisms to end gerrymandering.

“Political gerrymandering creates sham democracy,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “What good is your vote when the election districts have been set up to ensure that your vote doesn’t matter?”

Eisenberg argued that by engaging in manipulative redistricting practices designed to create “safe” districts that protect incumbents and preserve the political status quo, the government abandons its constitutional obligation to abide by the “neutrality principle,” which requires that it remain neutral in administering elections.

He noted that while the Supreme Court has frowned upon political gerrymandering as a violation of the neutrality principle, it has failed to mount an effective intervention to put an end to the practice.

“The neutrality principle remains, in the terminology of a noted legal scholar, an ‘under-enforced constitutional norm,'” Eisenberg said. “Such under-enforcement by the judiciary transfers the burden to our legislative bodies to effectuate and implement the terms of that constitutional commitment.”

The NYCLU’s testimony is available at

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