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Independent redistricting is sorely needed in WNY

Good for The News for highlighting the government reforms that are reducing partisan gridlock in California. One of those successful reforms is independent legislative redistricting.

In 2011, the architect of California’s new redistricting process spoke at the University at Buffalo’s two-day redistricting conference. Those of us in attendance were energized by the possibility of enacting similar reforms here in New York State. However, in Erie County the actions of a partisan redistricting commission, essentially appointed by our two major political parties, ended in failure. As a result, a judge redrew Erie County’s legislative districts.

On the state level, the two major parties divided the spoils and created a new 63rd “safe” Republican Senate seat to balance the Democratic Assembly. Their cozy party trade-offs did not extend to the federal level when it came to redrawing the state’s congressional districts. A court-appointed magistrate did that job for us.

If nonpartisan, independent redistricting is to be achieved in Erie County, or in New York State, we must begin the reform process now, long before the next census demands it and, as The News correctly points out, the lure of political power becomes all consuming.

Reform is never easy, but as California has demonstrated, it can be done.

Janet Massaro

Buffalo