Cortland County Legislators to begin task of redrawing legislative districts

(Photo Source: Cortland County MediaTrac Webcast).

Cortland County Legislators will begin the process of redrawing legislative districts, following and based on the results of the 2020 Census.

Trisha Jesset, the county’s planning director, presented the numbers from the census and guidelines the county must meet in order to meet the necessary population for each district.

According to the census information provided to Jesset, the population in the county has gone from 49,336 (in 2010) to 46,809 (in 2020). It’s a 5.12% decrease in population in the span of a decade for the county.

“This data is really important because it’s kind of a basis for a lot of funding allocations, development, opportunities, and things like redistricting,” Jesset said.

Back on Oct. 27 of this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation to “equalize populations in each district,” Jesset said. She added that the legislation requires each county in New York state to “redistrict using the census guidelines put forward.”

Jesset provided a list of “redistricting rules” for each county in the state. The top of the list is more of a priority, while the bottom of the list is less of a priority, she added.

The list is as follows:

  • Be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; the difference between the most and least populated district shall not exceed 5% of the mean of all districts
  • Redistricting is not to be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minority groups
  • Consist of contiguous territory
  • Be as compact in form as practicable
  • Redistricting is not to be drawn to discourage competition or to favor/disfavor incumbents or political parties
  • Consider existing district cores, political subdivisions and communities of interest
  • No villages, cities or towns except those having more than 40% of a full ratio for each district shall be divided
  • Be formed so as to promote the orderly and efficient administration of elections

Jesset noted that Cortland County currently has 17 legislative districts, with an average population of 2,753 in each district. The statewide average is 14 districts, with an average population of 6,123.

“No matter what we do, we’re going to have to show a change,” Jesset said.

Jesset also provided a timeline on the process of redrawing legislative districts in the county. It started with census data starting to be collected in April of 2020, followed by census data being released on Aug. 12 of this year.

The rest of the timeline is as follows:

  • Redistricting commission appointed (within six months of census data released)
  • Options presented to redistricting commission
  • Commission submission of local law to county legislature
  • Public hearing on recommendations
  • Adoption of local law by full county legislature (within three months of submission)
  • Information submitted to county board of elections
  • Proposed local law put into referendum on ballot for 2022 county election

Jesset’s presentation and discussion of the impending redistricting of Cortland County can be seen here (Presentation and discussion goes from 1:20 to 34:50).