Citing the state’s F grade for redistricting in the State Integrity Investigation, Common Cause/NY filed an amicus brief earlier this week supporting a challenge to the constitutionality of New York’s newly-drawn 63rd Senate district.
“The entire process was tremendously opaque,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. “It is a very discouraging for the average citizen to see the state carved up in districts as a result of political negotiations behind closed doors.”
The Common Cause brief supports a lawsuit brought by New York Senate Democrats who claim that Senate Republicans, currently the majority, manipulated the state constitution’s population counting formula – used every 10 years to determine the size of the Senate – to their advantage. The lawsuit alleges that Senate Republicans applied two different methods of calculating census growth in different counties, allowing them to manipulate the numbers to give them an extra seat in Republican upstate New York.
The lawsuit was dismissed by the state Supreme Court on April 13. The court ruled that increasing the size of the state Senate was not unconstitutional, but found the use of different counting methods “disturbing.” A spokesman for Senate Republicans said “we were required to add a 63rd seat to comply with the Constitution.” Democrats appealed to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, and arguments are set for today.
The Common Cause complaint takes issue not with the size of the state Senate, but with the process used for making the decision to expand – “without a scintilla of transparency or accountability,” as stated in the amicus brief. The State Integrity Investigation was cited to bolster the advocacy group’s argument that the New York process took place behind closed doors, with little public input.
“We hope there will be clear standard that will be articulated by the court that will prevent blatant political manipulation of the size of senate in the future,” Lerner said.