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Castelli: New District Map Still Partisan Gerrymandering

ALBANY, N.Y. – The first proposed redistricting maps released by the state Legislature on Wednesday would change Republican member of the Assembly Robert Castelli’s district from the 89th to the 93rd and reinstate North Salem as part of his constituency.

The Constitution requires that every 10 years, after the census is completed, redistricting be done in order to accommodate for shifts in population.

Under the maps shared with lawmakers on Wednesday, Castelli’s new district would add back the Town of North Salem, as well as make some adjustments to the district’s boundaries in the City of White Plains.  North Salem was part of the 89th district 10 years ago before redistricting removed it. The new map would also add about 2,000 more people to Castelli’s district.

Castelli, who is also affiliated with the Conservative Party, said the 89th district used to be more politically balanced – about 50 percent Democrats and 50 percent Republicans – until it was gerrymandered 10 years ago when redistricting last took place. The assembly member said it altered the district’s political landscape, making it more than 60 percent Democratic.

The newly proposed redistricting, other than adding back North Salem and tinkering with the White Plains boundaries, wouldn’t change much.

“On a philosophical level I’m opposed to something that was done on a political level 10 years ago,” he said. “Just because we have lived with it for the past10 years, doesn’t make it right. But I will run no matter what the district lines. It would have been nice to go back to an independent model – we would have had a 50/50 district as far as voter registration is concerned.”

He continued, “In essence, the partisan gerrymandering remains.  I believe there is still time for us to do better, though, because when politicians are choosing their constituents, instead of the other way around, it’s the people that lose.”

In testimony earlier this year to the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reappointment (LATFOR), the entity responsible for creating the maps, Castelli expressed hope that a measure of independent redistricting could be accomplished “in the confines that exist, within the parameters of this Committee and our current Constitution.”

Under an independent proposal released by Common Cause, the 89th district would shed the City of White Plains and the towns of New Castle and Mount Kisco, and instead be comprised of the current 89th districts towns of Bedford, Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, North Castle, and Harrison, while adding Mount Pleasant, North Salem, and Ossining.

Castelli notes that this configuration is similar to the district’s historical makeup, before it was gerrymandered a decade ago.

“The boundaries released by good-government groups create a district that is more compact, linking together communities of interest that are now fragmented, like the Valhalla School District, and the Village of Briarcliff,” he said.

Castelli is the author of his own legislation for independent redistricting ( Assembly Bill A5819 ), which differs from the governor’s proposal in that it would adopt a citizens’ redistricting commission, modeled after the process used in California, rather than an independent panel appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

The maps released Tuesday are only the first step in the process. There will be a series of public hearings beginning next week followed by the release of a revised set of maps. Then lawmakers will have to vote on such a plan, which will then go to the governor for his approval.

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