The Cortland County Legislature unanimously voted against its redistricting local law and map Thursday, citing the need to revisit the Redistricting Commission’s proposal based on comments raised during a recent public hearing.
As part of the apportionment process that occurs every 10 years after the U.S. Census figures are released, the county is set to redraw its legislative boundaries to be able to provide fair representation to residents based on updated population figures.
Census data indicates there has been a 5.1 percent decline in population across the county since 2010. It has spawned questions regarding the number of county legislative seats moving forward.
For every district, there must be a 5 percent increase or decrease from a proportional number of residents per district. In the county’s case, if they were to uphold the current 17 legislature seats, it would mean the district must stay within 5 percent more or less than approximately 2,753 residents. This number is the total Cortland County population divided by the 17 districts.
At Thursday’s meeting, legislative chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) said the commission has abided by the law governing redistricting.
“There weren't many comments that we had at the public hearing, but we did listen to the comments,” he said. “My recommendation is to vote this down to go back to commission so we can look at it properly.”
Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) echoed Fitch’s comments.
“It has been a tough couple of months (for the commission) and we have gotten some great comments back,” Harbin said. “I would support you in voting this down, that is the only legal way forward given that we do have a clock that is running.”
County residents made their concerns clear on May 19, during the public hearing for the redistricted maps and local law.
“As a resident of the town of Virgil, it is concerning that our district be divided up rather than reducing the number of legislators,” said Paul Petrella. “Where I sit at my address, basically, on the opposite side of the road from me, the neighbors are going to be represented by a legislator in Cortlandville. Neighbors from just over the hill are going to be represented by a legislator in Freetown.”
Petrella said he would like to see changes to the outcome of redistricting.
“I think it is a shame to do that when we have other options, such as reducing the number of legislators,” he added. “I cannot support redistricting as it stands right now.”
John Kaminski, the Virgil town supervisor, made comments similar to Petrella.
“These people are concerned their rep is going to be hard to get a hold of,” Kaminski said. “We are going to have the town split into more than one district. I am asking you now to reconsider (the proposal).”