County Redistricting

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the upcoming redistricting process at the county level while simultaneously shrinking the legislature from 19 to 15 members:

Some Niagara County legislators will have to decide this year whether to exit gracefully or fight for their political lives.

Plenty of behind-the-scenes political maneuvering can be expected as the County Legislature considers a new set of district boundaries, to be drawn by a five-member commission appointed last week. Its first meeting is set for Thursday.

In the last redistricting nine years ago, every incumbent was protected, but that can’t be the case this time because the size of the Legislature is shrinking, effective after this November’s election.

“There’s 19 members now, and there’s only going to be 15 after redistricting. Someone is going to lose out,” said Michael J. Norris, chairman of the county Republican Party.
The most interesting portion of the article to me was the insight into some of the rules governing the process:
There are two important redistricting rules set by state law. Population in all districts must be within 5 percent of the average, and no municipality can be divided between multiple districts unless its population is more than 10 percent above the average.

That means the only towns that can legally be divided are Lockport, Lewiston and Wheatfield. The three cities of Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda also can be divided.
The current map is here. It does not appear to be overly gerrymandered as some other levels of gov't are. The panel appointed to lay out the new boundaries is referred to in this Buffalo News article.
The redistricting commission that is to draw the new Niagara County Legislature districts mixes political figures of the past with others who have served more recently on prominent boards.

Those appointed at Tuesday’s Legislature meeting are Shirley G. Urtel of Cambria, the Legislature’s former majority leader; Charles J. Naughton of Wheatfield, former chairman of the Niagara County Democratic Party; Patricia Dufour of the Town of Lockport, a member of the county Industrial Development Agency board; Kevin C. Schuler of Wheatfield, chairman of the Niagara USA Chamber; and Michael R. Cornell of North Tonawanda, principal of Amherst Middle School.


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