Reapportionment – coming soon to your neighborhood

There are a lot of issues thrown around these days concerning the United States Constitution.  Like during the second impeachment trial of the 45th president, when some Republicans claimed that you cannot impeach a president who is out of office, bi-partisan constitutional scholarship to the contrary.  Or like when a president incites an armed mob to attack the United States Capitol – that’s not a constitutional high crime and misdemeanor according to the 43 senators who voted to acquit “the former guy,” Joe Biden’s nickname for his predecessor.

One constitutional requirement that nearly everyone accepts is that a census of all persons living in the United States must be taken every ten years, something that has been done since 1790.  There have been modifications, from time-to-time, about how the census is conducted.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that:

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union…. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

The apportionment of representatives is also used, along with each state’s senators, to determine the number of Electoral College votes the states will have in subsequent presidential elections.

Demographics, local economic and tax climates, population shifts, and a host of other reasons have left New York State once again in a losing situation.  Our 27 member House delegation will go down to 26 when the next Congress convenes in January 2023.  As recently as 1960 the state had 43 House members.

Our loss will be another state’s gain since the number of House members is set at 435.  Florida, Texas and North Carolina will be among the winners.  California, with the largest current delegation (53) might also lose a seat as people leave the state.  Texas has gained the most from shifting populations.  Hmm.  Wonder how that will work going forward.  Come to Texas: bring your own water and generator!

The new reapportionment for 2022 congressional elections will be the first one produced following a United States Supreme Court decision that terminated provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which required certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get pre-clearance of their district line drawings from the Justice Department.

The first step in the redistricting process is to get the population numbers, broken down by census tracts.  The United States Census Bureau, given some bureaucratic screw-ups during The Former Guy administration, recently announced that they would not be able to provide the required data until September 30.

That presents a problem.  While political leaders and incumbent legislators likely have some general idea about how they might want to redraw the lines, real work cannot begin until the numbers are in.

Procedures on how reapportionment is conducted, technically and politically, will vary from state to state.  Trifecta states (one party control of the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature) will be the most political in drawing new districts.  New York, of course, is a trifecta state.

The congressional lines that we have had in New York since 2012 were drawn by federal Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, serving as special master, after the politically divided Legislature failed to act.  Republicans controlled the state Senate at that time.  A federal three-judge panel approved the new congressional districts in March 2012, one day before candidates could begin circulating petitions to qualify for the ballot.  

Now, with a Democratic super-majority in both houses, it seems likely the 2012 history will not be repeated.  There is a ten member commission that will recommend the congressional and state legislative districts.  The state Legislature, however, can and will feel free to tweak those lines to serve their purposes.

Currently there are nineteen Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation and eight Republicans.  David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, a publication that does much of their work on congressional election analysis, has suggested that lines could be drawn to set up the opportunity for Democrats to reduce the Republican caucus in the New York delegation by up to five members.

Who knows how that will work out?  Considering that the trifecta states of Texas and Florida, plus North Carolina, where the Republicans in the state legislature are in effective control, have the power to move up to six seats from Democrats to the party of the former guy, it will be tempting for Democrats in New York to reciprocate.

The New York Legislature will also control the redesign of their own districts.  Considering that Democrats were able to flip the Senate under lines drawn by Republicans, they should be able to make their super-majority pretty solid.  Actually it is hard to imagine how many decades it might be before the Republicans, or whatever they call themselves in the future, can reclaim even one house of the Legislature.

Locally there could be some tidying up in places such as the 60th senatorial district, which runs from Tonawanda, then grabs just enough of Buffalo heading to places south, ending in Hamburg.  The Republicans drew that district for Mark Grisanti in 2012.  He lost the next election.  Sean Ryan currently holds the seat.

The 2022 election cycle depends on the redistricting that will be on the table this fall.  Time will be needed to draw the lines, vet them to the extent they are legally required to be vetted, and then get everything ready for the 2022 elections that will kick off with petitioning in February 2022; so more or less four months to get everything done.  That is a tight schedule under the best of circumstances, but not to worry, the New York Legislature is in charge.

New census numbers will also filter down to county legislatures and city councils which will need to do their own redistricting.  Erie County has started the technical process by beginning to set up a commission.

It will not be possible to redraw county legislative districts for this year’s elections; the Buffalo Common Council elections are not until 2023.  It may be that the county legislative and council districts for part of 2022 and into 2023 might have to assign weighted votes to existing districts since it will be possible to determine how many residents each current district has.  It has happened before.

Redistricting is an arcane and highly technical process that will be easy to overlook when so many other pandemic and economic issues are the focus of the public’s attention.  The redistricting work, however, is very important and will have a wide impact for the next ten years.

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Votes on impeachment, Greene and the Biden financial rescue bill will define the Republican Party; Andrew Cuomo has some problems

Another year, another impeachment vote.  The wreckage of the Trump administration and Trump’s extremist Republican defenders in the United States Senate will leave this country in unsettled political turmoil for years to come.

So will the cowardly position of the majority of the party’s members in the House of Representatives who supported wacka-doodle QAnon Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And so will upcoming votes on President Joe Biden’s COVID relief package, which is designed to deal with the pandemic and the related financial, physical and mental pain that the virus has spread throughout the country.

The Republican Party is fixated on its support of their cult-like leader, and the venom runs from Washington, via Mar-a-Lago, to state capitals and to local governments.  The party and its leaders have abandoned all pretext of being a party of principle, a party that respects the laws of the land.  The old self-describers like “conservative” and “law and order” are what the party used to be.  No more.

Genuine “conservatives” respect the law and respect individuals.  They work hard to get their candidates elected, but if they lose the election they accept the result and move on.  They stake out public positions on important issues, which they are prepared to develop, explain and defend.  Real conservatives don’t fixate on a single leader who puts his personal enrichment ahead of the common good.

The insurrection against the United States was directed by a president who could not substantiate any election problems that would have affected the outcome.  Nor could he accept the results of the election, one that he lost by more than seven million votes and a landslide in the Electoral College.

The death and destruction at the United States Capitol on January 6th was the direct responsibility of Trump, his adult sons, and his sycophant supporters like Rudy Giuliani and Mo Brooks, who used the Trump mob gathered on that day to march on the Capitol and conduct a “trial by combat.”

Ten Republican members of the House and seven senators understood where responsibility lies for the January 6th mob violence.  The rest of the party’s congressional delegation, however, chose to look the other way, to downplay the insurrection, and, by their actions and words, to make it clear that the Republican Party does not stand for the rule of law.

Republicans in the House mostly stood in support of Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric has only been outdone by her advocacy of violence against public officeholders.  She should have been expelled from the House.

Yet to come will be another example of where the Republican Party claims to speak for the public while turning their backs on the needs of the unemployed, those facing eviction from their homes and the loss of medical coverage for millions of families.  President Biden’s COVID relief package, which has the strong support of the American public, will come up for a vote by early March.  The legislation will provide the resources that families, schools, health care organizations and businesses need while they tread water, waiting for vaccinations to be broad-based enough to offer the herd immunity that we need.  Then we can move on to more normal lives; however the post-pandemic era will define “normal.”

Republicans will oppose the Biden relief package because of the concern they will express for spending government money.  Funny that that was not a problem when they pushed through their partisan tax cuts for the rich, under the same budget reconciliation procedures, which cost approximately $1.9 trillion dollars.  Funny that they did not raise objections as the federal government deficit grew by $7 trillion over Trump’s four years.

There is a great deal to do to get this country straightened out after the multiple disasters left by Donald Trump and his followers.  The Democratic Party will once again have the responsibility and the opportunity to set the country back on the right track.

Cuomo’s problems

Lest my Republican friends become concerned that this blog and post is too Democratic, I believe it necessary to discuss the growing difficulties facing Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration.

I first point out the positive achievements of the Governor in managing the pandemic in New York State.  The state was hit first and hardest by the COVID crisis.  In the face of the inept management of the pandemic by Trump and his administration, Cuomo worked incredibly hard to keep things under control.  When crises are flying at you from every angle, you have to do everything at once.  In such situations mistakes are made.

When the time comes for some reflection about those actions, however, people in charge should be able to say they accepted their responsibilities, were transparent and honest about what they did, but also took responsibility for what did not go well.  Therein lie the roots of Andrew Cuomo’s problems.

Most reviews of the way Cuomo has operated over the years will recognize that his preferred MO is to control everything.  Aside from the pandemic issues, a good example of these tendencies can be observed in his management of the state’s economic development activities.

Cuomo has a lot of explaining to do about his management of the COVID crisis as it concerns the deaths in the state’s nursing homes.  Being more open and less defensive along the way could have prevented some of the problems with the facilities that state Attorney General Letitia James, the state Legislature, and who knows who else will now be investigating.

Cuomo’s criticism of the experts in the state Health Department does not make sense.  It is like an echo of comments and actions by a recently departed Washington politician.

Along the way some of the blame for the financial and management problems that the state now faces rests directly with the State Assembly and Senate.  They have the power, with the super majorities that exist in both houses, to quickly modify or take back the authority they ceded to Cuomo a year ago.  Legislators need to get to work in assessing the problems that exist and in assisting in the management of both the state budget and the huge amount of federal government money that is likely to flow into the state, its localities and schools in the near future.

One of the ways that a government goes off the rails is when leaders struggle to manage a crisis while dealing with the need for transparency.  Massive federal resources will offer an opportunity to improve and protect the wellbeing of the state and its residents. Decisions should be shared with the public.  Let’s see how this all works out.