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Spitzer: Cuomo should take redistricting out of legislature’s hands

Former governor weighs in on the current one's pledge to reform drawing of legislative district lines

Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo campaign with members of the state Assembly in 2006. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Capital New York

As the clock ticks down on New York’s redistricting process and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deliberations on whether to veto plans drawn by the state legislature, former Governor Eliot Spitzer added his voice to the calls for Cuomo to shut down any proposal by legislators.

“The bottom line should be that he veto the lines and demand that there be a neutral arbiter to create lines that are not based upon incumbent protection,” Spitzer said during a Thursday appearance at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The legislature is expected to vote next week on redistricting plans for the state Senate and Assembly by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, or LATFOR. Cuomo has vowed to veto LATFOR’s proposal if he considers it to be partisan, and said that its current drafts are unacceptable. (See The New York’s World analysis showing how the political parties that drew the current drafts would gain seats if they were adopted.)

But Cuomo has also left himself substantial wiggle room to approve a revised proposal. On Wednesday, he suggested that amended maps coupled with substantive reforms for 2022 redistricting could be enough to win his approval.

Spitzer, in his appearance yesterday, denounced a possible compromise along these lines as “throwing scraps to mollify” reformers and failing to achieve real change.

“Putting it off ten years is tantamount to not doing it,” Spitzer said. “The pretense that we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to require it or pass a law that will change it – the law can be repealed and the amendment won’t go through. A thousand different things can happen between here and there.”

If Cuomo vetoes the plans submitted by the legislature, the process would be thrown to the courts. On Wednesday, the three-judge panel overseeing New York’s redistricting named Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann as the special master in charge of drawing the maps in the event Cuomo issues a veto or the legislature fails to reach an agreement.

Gerald Benjamin, a dean at SUNY New Paltz and a New York political analyst, said that Cuomo’s key challenge was to live up to his promises to draw a firm line on redistricting while preserving a strong working relationship with the legislature.

“A lot of Cuomo’s strength is based on the idea that his word has value,” Benjamin said. “And his word is at stake for some important political constituencies.”

When asked about Spitzer’s remarks, Cuomo’s office issued a terse response.

“The Governor’s office has no comment on anything Spitzer says,” said Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto in an email.

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