Yates County legislative districts to change

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
The legislative district proposal that will be considered by Yates County Legislators.

Yates County Legislators will be voting on a local law to change their districts, but there will be no change in the number of legislators on the board.

Last week, a special committee agreed to recommend that the Government Operations Committee present a resolution at the May 14 legislature meeting starting the process to draw new district lines within the county.

The singular change to the districts will be to include Milo voting district four to the Legislative District III.

The area is currently part of District IV with the towns of Starkey and Barrington.

The new District III would cover the entire town of Milo, and would be represented by four legislators. The new District IV would be represented by three legislators.

The change will open up a seat for a new face from Starkey or Barrington and will have an impact on Steven Webster, who lives in Milo voting district four and represents District IV with William Holgate of Starkey and James Multer of Barrington.

Right now, District III, which covers voting districts 1,2,3, 5 and 6 in the town of Milo, is represented by Daniel Banach, Leslie Church, Mark Morris and Rob Schwarting.

If Webster wants to continue to serve on the county board, he will need to challenge the existing Milo legislators.

Webster says he hasn’t made any decisions about the proposal and its impact on his service. “I’ve got 18 months to think about it,” he says.

Robert Multer, chair of the redistricting committee said the legislature has the authority to draw new district lines every 10 years.

In considering the re-districting, the committee also looked at new district lines that would reduce the number of legislators to 11. That alternative would have moved the town of Torrey into a new district with Starkey, Barrington and Milo voting district 4. Under that plan, the number of legislators representing districts would be changed as follows:

District I (Jerusalem, Italy, Middlesex): reduced from four to three;

District II (Benton, Potter): reduced from three to two

District III (Four election districts in Milo): reduced from four to two

District IV (Torrey, Barrington, Starkey, two election districts in Milo) increased from three to four.

Multer says the committee also considered weighted voting, but explained in a document he shared with legislators last week, “The committee has rejected weighted voting as an option, as the added complexity offers no significant advantages.”

In a prepared statement, Multer explains, “In consideration of the least disruptive change to the Legislative District configuration the voters have used for the last 27 years, the continuation of each taxpayer having at least three representatives, the continuation of an adequate number of legislators to fully represent the voters, the continued possibility of each town having a resident representative, and eliminating the division of one town into two Legislative Districts, the committee is recommending the continuation of 14 legislators and the same four Legislative Districts with one minor change.”

Multer provided the following background information:

In 1972, because of a lawsuit claiming unequal representation, the nine member Yates County Board of Supervisors rejected a weighted vote Board of Supervisors and became a 13 member Yates County Legislature consisting of five legislative districts. Every 10 years, the legislature reviews the representation when new census numbers are finalized.

In 1985, because of changes in census numbers, the 13-member legislature became a 14-member Legislature consisting of four legislative districts. The formation of the Legislature gives each member equal voting power, eliminating the need for weighted voting.

The district formation for its 40 year history, with a slight modification in 1985, has provided a consistent system of keeping districts compact and contiguous, taking into account existing town boundaries while ensuring the possibility that each town can have a resident sitting as a member of the legislature. For the last 27 years, the district structure has ensured that each Yates County voter has at least three legislators representing the district in which he or she lives.

At the county level, elected representatives play a significant role in controlling decisions that impact residents’ lives. The number of legislators has provided a diverse membership with a wide range of backgrounds, experience and abilities so that varying perspectives are considered before making these decisions.

With new 2010 census information, the Legislature appointed a committee to review legislative representation.

Current legislative districts