Public hearing on proposed county redistricting map set for the end of March

Cortland County office building. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/Cortland Voice)

The Cortland County Redistricting Commission has finally voted for a map to recommend to the legislature.

The legislature will now vote on a 15-legislative district map on March 23, at a public hearing set prior to the monthly legislative meeting. If approved, the new map, along with a new local law that redraws the district, would go into effect for the 2027 elections.

As part of the apportionment process that occurs every 10 years after the U.S. Census figures are released, the county is sought 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, a 15-seat legislature means the district must stay within 5 percent more or less than approximately 3,121 residents. This number is the total Cortland County population divided by the 15 districts.

Both map options presented by the Redistricting Commission on Tuesday have an ideal population of 3,121 per district. The variation of 5 percent means districts can be anywhere from 2,965 to 3,277.

The guidelines stated by the state regarding redistricting state localities have to prioritize staying within that 5 percent range, as well as work to keep communities of interest together. Communities of interest are typically defined by state as those that share religious affiliation or ethnic demographics.

The map, approved via a 3-1 vote Tuesday, combines a couple options presented by the Commission. It leaves the village of Homer and the town in separate districts, increases the number of districts representing Cortlandville to four, and welds some of the municipalities in the northern part of the county together.

“Even with the list of requirements from New York state about how a county redistricting needs to happen, there are lots of possible outcomes when creating a map,” said Legislature Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2). “There are no easy answers when it comes to this process. We have worked to address some of the key flaws that have plagued the districts in the city and knit neighborhoods back together. In the county some core values and requests have been honored such as providing the village of Homer with their own well-deserved district. The final map is not perfect but no map could be given all the elements which have to be taken into account. Now we will have the opportunity to get more direct feedback from the public to hear their views.”

Harbin presented his own version of a 15-district map on Tuesday, and although some suggestions were noted, that map was ultimately not adopted by the Commission.