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Redistricting Commission Refines Focus to 14-District Plan

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Redistricting Commission Refines Focus to 14-District Plan

Friday, December 16, 2011
The County's Independent Redistricting Commission, charged with preparing a recommended plan for reapportionment of County legislative districts, narrowed its review process further at its tenth meeting Thursday, members reaching consensus that a 14-district plan should become the focus at this point.

Members agreed to narrow the focus to a 14-district scenario that had previously been identified as one of three active options, and unanimously removed two 13-district alternatives from active consideration. The Commission asked staff to produce three versions of the 14-district map, to include each of three possible approaches for districts within the City of Ithaca, which were presented as preliminary proposals currently under review by the City's redistricting committee.

Commission members noted that the City of Ithaca districts require further review and have not yet been fully addressed by the Commission. In the 14-district plan, four districts are fully contained within the City, and alternative City district configurations would not affect district lines outside the City.

The Commission also asked that staff develop one or more 14-district alternatives that adjust district boundaries in the southern part of the Town of Ithaca. Some suggested those boundaries should be refined to better reflect neighborhood identity and encourage voter participation.

All scenarios presented so far--'with those under active consideration noted--'may be viewed at the Redistricting Commission's web site at http://www.tompkins-co.org/redistricting (click on "Maps.").

County Elections Commissioners Elizabeth Cree and Stephen DeWitt both expressed a preference for a 14-district scenario, telling the Commission that this approach addresses most of their concerns and eliminates sliver districts, such as the current districts in the Town of Ithaca. They also expressed a desire to see congruent county legislative district and ward lines in the City of Ithaca.

City redistricting committee chair Tom Frank, who attended the County Commission session, cautioned that there has been no decision yet by the City to reduce the number of wards from five to four, but suggested that, if the City decides to retain a five-district structure, that would mean that City wards and County legislative districts within the City would not have consistent boundaries. While the pace of City redistricting review is running a bit behind the County's, Frank said he expects his group will reach its recommendations by the time the County commission finalizes its recommended plan.

The Independent Redistricting Commission has recessed until the second week in January, will hold public review and comment sessions later in the month, and expects to finalize its recommendations to the County Legislature by mid-February.