The political news of the day is about redistricting. People in the political world care about this because it sets the tone and make-up of government. Many pundits are of the opinion that the general public doesn’t care about redistricting. That might be so in the short term, but one day when you go to vote, you learn that the representatives you liked (or hated) no longer represent you.
You can decide if this matters or not. I will attempt to tell you how it works and, as time goes on, I will talk about how the changes will affect us.
Every 10 years, following the census in the United States, representative government goes through the process of redistricting. In its purest sense, because of population changes and shifts, new districts are created for congress, state senate, state assembly and county legislature.
The House of Representatives has 435 members by law and each state has at least one representative. Population determines where the house seats fall. New York currently has 29 representatives. Because of a drop in population, we are going to have 27.
The congressional lines are in the hands of the federal courts. When the state legislature draws lines, it takes into account party registration and incumbency. Can we elect a Democrat? Can we protect a Republican? Can we protect an incumbent member? The attempt by the state legislature at creating fair lines was attacked in a lawsuit, shifting responsibility to a federal magistrate. With New York losing members of congress, representatives will shift. In the hands of the courts, the assumption is that only population will be considered.
Here’s what’s going on in Long Beach. Our Congressman is Peter T. King. Long Beach is in the 3rd Congressional District. The lines drawn by the federal magistrate would indicate that Long Beach would no longer be in the 3rd House District. We would be in the 4th Congressional, which is currently represented by Carolyn McCarthy.
Lines offered up by the state legislature suggested that the election would pit McCarthy against Gary Ackerman. In the federal court plan, Congressman Ackerman has been moved completely back to his native Queens, King has been moved north up the Meadowbrook surrounding his native Seaford and McCarthy has been moved west, taking over most of the Nassau shore line.
When you as a voter think about this, you might ask if you care who represents you in congress. Does it matter by party? Does it matter by the person and their seniority in the House of Representatives?
I hope that shifts in district lines will provide opportunities to elect entirely new representatives who are more tied to the future than the past. That, I believe is how this was intended in the Constitution.
The plans for the state legislature are not yet final, but it is a sure bet that both Dean Skelos and Harvey Weissenberg will continue to represent Long Beach.