OPINION

O’Mara urges participation in legislative redistricting

Office of N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

New independent commission schedules public hearings, seeks local input  

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) urges constituents to make their voices heard in the redrawing of state legislative and congressional districts to help ensure fair representation in state and federal government for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide.

N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

“Millions of New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to take the politics out of the once-every-decade legislative redistricting process and put it in the hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission. The 2014 constitutional amendment creating the Commission seeks to ensure that no region of the state, special interest or political party gains an unfair advantage in the process.  We’ll see how that plays out in the weeks and months ahead but here at the start, there is clearly an opportunity for the public to provide input for balanced government,” said O’Mara.

Every 10 years, New York State is required to draw new district lines that reflect population and demographic changes reported in the most recent Census. Unlike in previous years when state legislative leaders fully controlled the process, more than 2 million New Yorkers voted in a 2014 referendum to give that responsibility to a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” (IRC).

The IRC announced a new website and a hearings schedule earlier this week to collect input from citizens and devise the best possible redistricting plan.

As part of its charge to revise district lines for the State Senate, Assembly and Congress, the IRC must consider impacts on existing neighborhoods and communities, based on information it gathers from its virtual hearings and written testimony.

O’Mara said, “This Commission, overwhelmingly approved by the voters, holds out hope for a redistricting process that is more open and transparent.  It will only be effective if local citizens across this state participate to make their voices heard. We can all play our part to learn more, and join with community leaders, neighborhood groups and others to speak up for the issues that matter most to our communities.”

The new IRC website allows citizen interaction. It allows you to sign up to participate in the hearings or to submit written testimony. According to the IRC, you must sign up through the web portal for the regional hearing encompassing your specific community.

The hearing for the Southern Tier/Central NY region is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 9, beginning at 2 p.m.  The Finger Lakes/Western N.Y. hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. 

For more information, including how to participate and/or submit testimony, go to: www.nyirc.gov/meetings.

Following this first round of virtual hearings, the IRC is required to release its first statewide redistricting proposal to the public on Sept. 15.  The IRC will then schedule additional, constitutionally required hearings in the fall before releasing final maps for legislative approval in early 2022.