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nytimes.com | The problem with single-member districts

by Jack Santucci // Published December 13, 2005
A New York Times editorial on December 4 asked gubernatorial candidates to tell us where they stand on redistricting reform:
From "The Number One Reform", City section
December 4, 2005

...At this early stage in the race to replace Mr. Pataki, voters should make certain any serious candidate promises to set up a truly independent and genuinely nonpartisan commission for redistricting. The Legislature should be allowed to vote the commission's plan up or down (no tinkering), and then the governor will get his say. That will not mean an end to incumbent advantage, but it will make races more competitive, and make voter opinion a much more real and pressing consideration in a place where, right now, most lawmakers believe no one is really watching but the lobbyists.

The next governor, who undoubtedly will promise to be a reformer, should endorse this most basic reform and stop New York's politicians from drawing districts and erasing their competition...

Here's what one reader had to say in response:

To the Editor:

Re "The Number One Reform" (editorial, Dec. 4):

Why even keep districts around? It's time to swallow the pill we've been holding under our tongue for 200 years: we live in a party system. Why not just vote for the party? Each party can have a number of seats in the Assembly proportional to the percentage of the vote it wins.

Maybe other voices could even get heard. New York is unique among states in that it has influential third parties. They rarely get elected to office, however. If the Independence, Conservative and Working Family Parties get a little say in the Legislature, it potentially can bring new ideas to the table. The end consequence might be that new, workable ideas spill into nearby states, and ultimately into national discourse.

As long as there are districts, somebody will try to gerrymander them. For those who are concerned that localities will no longer be represented when districts are gone, there will still be the Senate.

Richard Fassett Financial District