Appendix: Determining the Number of New York State Senate Districts, 1972-2012
The formula for determining the number of Senate districts is based on Article III,§4, par. 3, of the New York State Constitution, originally adopted in 1894:
The ratio for apportioning senators shall always be obtained by dividing thenumber of inhabitants . . . by fifty, and the senate shall always be composed of fiftymembers, except that if any county having three or more senators at the time of anyapportionment, shall be entitled on such ratio to an additional senator or senators, suchadditional senator or senators shall be given to such county in addition to the fiftysenators, and the whole number of senators shall be increased to that extent.
Art. III, § 4, was adopted at a time when New York County (then including muchof what is now Bronx County) held nearly a quarter of the population of the state.Politicians representing upstate and rural areas feared that New York and Brooklynwould continue to grow until they entirely dominated state government. That outcomewas to be prevented by a constitutional provision that effectively gave an extra Senateseat to the less populous counties, each time one of the more populous counties qualifiedfor an additional seat on the basis of population growth. The provision was one of severalthat operated, over the following decades, to produce a gross malapportionment of Senatedistricts. By 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court applied the equal representation principle to the New York State Legislature in
WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo
, the most populous Senate district had four times the population of the least populous.In the equal representation era, art. III, § 4, should no longer operate to produce amalapportionment. Paragraph 3 just determines the total number of seats, and the stateshould then be divided into that number of districts, all of approximately equal population, according to the equal representation principle. The interpretation of Paragraph 3 was last litigated in
Schneider v. Rockefeller
(1972), a challenge to thereapportionment that took effect in 1972. The interpretation followed by the Legislaturein the 1972 reapportionment was upheld by the NYS Court of Appeals in
, andfollowed by the Legislature in 1982 and 1992.Some of the language in art. III, § 4, par. 3, is not perfectly clear. The applicationof the formula is further complicated by the fact that some county boundaries havechanged since 1894. As interpreted in a series of decisions by the Court of Appeals –
Matter of Dowling
, 219 N.Y. 44 (1916),
Matter of Fay
, 291 N.Y. 198 (1943),
Matter of Orans
, 15 NY2d 339 (1965), and
Schneider v. Rockefeller
, 31 NY2d 420 (1972) – the paragraph may be parsed as follows:
A ratio of apportionment is 1/50 (2%) of the total state population, notincluding remainders. The rounding is always downward; thus a county with 6.01%of the total state population is deemed to have as many ‘full ratios of apportionment’as a county with 7.99% (three ‘full ratios,’ but still short of four).
Territory comprising a single county,
as it existed in 1894
; the particular instances will be explained below.