The process had a couple of bumps along the way. First the commission, made up of three Republican leaning members, three Democratic leaning members and one independent had to wait for the census numbers, then learn to mess with the software that would divide districts by population. A decision was made to try to make the districts fall within five percent of one another in population, a compromise, as the original goal was two percent, though five is allowed by law.
As the process headed down the final stretch, Bill West, former Woodstock town supervisor and county legislature chairman, as well as current town Republican chairman, suddenly proposed a weighted voting system, in which each town would remain whole, but in which some legislators from more populous towns would be more equal than others. That was voted down by the commission in a sensible move, but only by a 4-3 tally.
So now, the plan is at hand. It’s mostly bipartisan, eminently fair, a model of democracy’s intent. But nonetheless endangered. That’s because a judge, reading an ambiguous passage in the official charter, ruled that the county legislature would have to approve. So we’re likely to hear a few stuck pigs howl, those who’ve been districted out, or forced into primaries against other incumbents. Thus, the commission is put in check.
Should the legislature change the plan, however, the county executive has promised to veto it. Check on the legislature, which would lack the overriding 22 votes. And thus, the plan might go back to the judge, who has indicated that she would make a choice if none other were in place in a timely fashion. Her likely choice? The commission’s plan. Checkmate.
Better that the county legislature recognize that the work was done in an honest fashion by the redistricting commission in the first place, and pass it along, regardless of who has a difficult run in the fall. ++