GHENT–The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Redistricting released its tentative maps for new Assembly and state Senate districts Thursday, January 26. The proposed new districts would carve up Columbia County in some very different ways.
Under the plan all of the county would be shifted into the 43rd District of the state Senate. That district is currently represented by Roy MaDonald (R) and the county would be the southern end of the district, which would also cover most of eastern Rensselaer County and take in much of Saratoga County as well. The 41st Senate District, now represented by state Senator Steve Saland, would not extend into Columbia County as it now does.
On the Assembly side, the county would still be divided among three different districts. The towns of Kinderhook, Chatham, New Lebanon, Austerlitz, Canaan and Hillsdale would become part of the 107th District, currently representative by Steve McLaughlin (R) of Rensselaer County.
Germantown and Clermont at the county’s southwest corner would become part of what could best be described as an “X”-shaped district that winds through the Catskills and south to Orange County in a manner that would appear to define the term gerrymandered. The Latfor website, www.latfor.state.ny.us/maps, says this new 101st Assembly District has no incumbent. Peter Lopez (R), who represents the two towns now as part of the 127th District, is listed as the incumbent in a new 102nd District that doesn’t extend across the Hudson River into Columbia County.
The remainder of the towns in Columbia County (Stuyvesant, Stockport, Ghent, Greenport, Livingston, Claverack, Taghkanic, Gallatin, Copake and Ancram) and the City of Hudson would all become part of the 106th Assembly District currently represented by Joel Miller (R) of Dutchess County.
With the exception of Gallatin, Stuyvesant and Taghkanic, the towns that would become part of the 106th District are now part of the 103rd District, which is holding a special election in March to pick someone to fill the vacancy created when the incumbent, Marc Molinaro was elected Dutchess County executive. But neither of the candidates seeking to serve out the remaining few months of Mr. Molinaro’s term –Democrat Didi Barrett and Republican Rich Wager–lives within what would become the new 106th District.
So it’s likely that by this time next year Columbia County residents in communities like Hudson and Ancram will find they have been represented in the Assembly by three different people in a little over a year’s time.
Redistricting for the legislature is required by law after each census, and the taskforce, known by the acronym Latfor, gets the first crack at the job. Latfor members are appointed by legislative leaders. Governor Cuomo has previously said that he would veto the Latfor plan for new districts if the proposed district seemed designed to give one party a greater political advantage, but he has not yet said what he would do about the proposal released Thursday.
There can also be legal challenges to redistricting or the federal Department of Justice can require changes if districts appear to violate voting rights statutes.
All seats in the state legislature are up for election this November.
The task force has not yet released maps for redrawn congressional districts. New York will lose two seats in the House of Representatives based on the census.
By contrast, the small Republican majority in the state Senate added a new Senate seat under the redistricting plan. It was the readjustments caused by the addition of that new seat that led Latfor to place Columbia County in the 43rd Senate District instead of the 41st.