Judge Dora Irizarry Calls for Special Master to Oversee Redistricting Process


As Albany continues to struggle with redistricting, a federal judge from Brooklyn has formally called for a “special master” to oversee the process, signaling a lack of faith in the state legislature to get things done in a timely or fair manner.

Judge Dora Irizarry, who serves in the US District Court in Brooklyn, sided with a group of voters who brought a lawsuit against the state, seeking to intervene before new district lines are permanently drawn. In her five-page decision, Irizarry said that the state should appoint a panel of three judges to oversee the lawsuit, and a “Special Master” to oversee the redistricting practice.

“No congressional lines have been proposed through New York’s legislative process much less adopted even though the petitioning period is less than six weeks away,” Irizarry wrote, citing New York’s quickly-approaching June 26 primaries as the reason behind her decision to force judicial intervention.

The redistricting process only happens once every decade, in concurrence with the census. In theory it’s supposed to ensure that everyone in the state has a fair shot at representation in the government. In practice, it’s often used by politicians to up their market share of favorable demographics, by splitting communities along geographic lines.

But since it’s hard to get your average Joe very excited about mapmaking or gerrymandering these days, it’s up to small individual groups to challenge the system legally. The same thing happened in 2002 and 1992 — in both instances, the state government failed to finalize district lines until the courts stepped in.

[ NY Daily News ]