There is a lot of talk these days about how gerrymandered congressional districts, drawn to give one of the major political parties a clear majority, allows a representative from one of those districts to be less responsive to rational compromise and more beholden to radicals who vote in, and thus tend to control primary elections. The responsibility for drawing districts based on the census every decade falls to state legislatures, thus magnifying the importance of those local seats.
Now we’re not saying that control of the U.S. Congress depends on it, but there is quite an interesting case of an election that is not yet over concerning our own State Senate seat. Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, school board member from farther upstate, where our district now snakes, is 37 votes behind Republican assemblyman George Amedore, also from up yonder. A State Supreme Court judge says it’s over, that the 300 or so uncounted paper ballots are disqualified for technical deficiencies, quite clear in the law. He certified Amedore’s election. But Tkaczyk has appealed, and another brief has appeared from two voters whose ballots were disqualified. The appeals point out that there was no fraud, and that many of the voters were only following instructions from their respective boards of election, and that disenfranchisement of the voting public was undesirable, regardless of slight technical deficiencies.
The other point is that the uncounted ballots were mostly challenged by Amedore and would likely cost him the election if counted, as they largely come from Ulster County, where Tkaczyk handily defeated him…despite the fact that the district was almost certainly drawn (gerrymandered) to accommodate the Republican candidate, by last year’s Republican State Senate. And the leadership of said senate could be hanging in the balance, as five or six (it’s always a fluid number) dissident Democrats have joined with Republicans to form a leadership coalition, even though Democrats may have actually won the majority of seats in the body. And remember that, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans by two to one in the state, the GOP has long controlled the state senate, a gerrymandering marvel, a textbook example.
For the record, we’d like to see the votes counted, not only because we supported Tkaczyk, but because people’s votes should not be thrown out because election inspectors gave them the wrong information, not when the vote itself is clear and the citizen is in good standing.
And consider the long run. After the 2020 census, new districts will be drawn. The parties that want to get a fair shake in the redistricting will begin now to focus on state legislative elections. At least until cooler heads can prevail and develop a more fair process for redistricting (like Ulster County did for its own legislature) throughout the country, something that would call for elected officials to cede power, which we all know, happens all too rarely.