FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 5, 2021
The Government Justice Center has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court to compel Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to properly fund the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission and ensure its ability to function objectively and independently as required by the state Constitution.
“Our state Constitution is the fundamental element of the rule of law in New York,” said Government Justice Center’s Cameron Macdonald. “It’s unconscionable that the Governor and the Legislature are making it necessary for a court to enforce this Constitutional mandate.”
In 2014 New Yorkers approved a constitutional amendment requiring an independent commission to redraw the state and federal legislative district maps every ten years. Today, however, neither the Governor nor the Legislature have much interest in seeing the reforms play out.
Requests the Commission submitted to the Governor and his agencies and the Legislature for funds to be released and for new appropriations have been repeatedly ignored. Neither the Governor nor the Legislature have indicated any intention to meet the Commission’s funding needs in the upcoming fiscal year budget.
In their most recent letter to the Governor, the Commission members wrote, “Both the Republican and Democratic members of the Commission are at a loss to explain your administration’s refusal to disperse funding that you signed into law after it was appropriated by the State Legislature, nor can we comprehend the state’s clear desire to subvert the will of an overwhelming majority of voters who ratified this constitutional amendment.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Petitioners Ross Brady, who is a member of the Independent Redistricting Commission, and Angela Renna, who was a state Senate candidate in 2020. Brady is one of the two non-legislative appointees on the Commission.
“As a member of the Independent Redistricting Commission, I am deeply disappointed,” said Commissioner Brady. “Governor Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly leaders have failed to provide the Commission with the resources and independence envisioned by voters when they overwhelmingly voted to amend the state Constitution in 2014.”
“As a voter who supported creation of the Independent Redistricting Commission, I’m proud to join this lawsuit because the state is continuing to frustrate the will expressed by New Yorkers when we voted to take politics out of our redistricting process,” said Angi Renna.
In late January, the executive branch entered into an agreement with SUNY Research Foundation–a private non-profit–to administer a third of the amount the Commission requires to operate, without consulting the Commission. The Commission rejected that agreement as unconstitutionally compromising its independence by handing control of Commission functions to the foundation.
Read the full petition here.
Government Justice Center is an independent, not-for-profit legal center that provides pro bono representation and legal services to protect the rights of New Yorkers in the face of improper action by state or local governments.