County Legislature approves redistricting plan presented by consultant

This map shows the plan that has been approved for four districts for the Orleans County Legislature.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2023 at 11:18 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature approved a redistricting plan in a 6-1 vote on Tuesday that makes slight adjustments in four legislative districts and keeps the at-large districts unchanged.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the Legislature is following the recommendations of its redistricting consultant, Skyline Demographic Consultants, Inc.

The current districts have an 11.7 percent population variance, which is above the 5 percent threshold allowed.

Skyline’s recommendations include adding part of western Murray to a district that currently is the towns of Albion and Gaines (currently filled by Fred Miller, the lone Democrat on the Legislature).

That gives the Albion-Gaines (District 3) more people and also takes away from District 4 that includes Murray, Kendall and Carlton (currently filled by John Fitzak). The Murray section that is added to District 3 includes 522 people from Murray’s election district 5.

The orange part of Murray will be shifted into a district that includes Albion and Gaines, while the yellow will be in a district that includes Carlton, Kendall and most of Murray.

During the last redistricting about a decade ago, the county added a small part of Shelby to District 2 that included Yates and Ridgeway (currently served by Lynne Johnson).

This time the county will move more of that area back into District 1, the Shelby-Barre-Clarendon district (represented by Bill Eick). That represents a shift of 418 people.

Fred Miller cast the lone vote against the plan. He said there remains a 413-person difference between the biggest district and the smallest. Miller would have the most populous district at 9,961 people.

His district would pick up 522 people from Murray. He thinks it would have been better to split that part of Murray – with half in his district and the other half going to District 1, which has 9,548 people and includes Clarendon, Barre and most of Shelby.

The consultant from Skyline said that portion of Murray comes from election district 5. Redistricting plans should keep an election district whole and not split them up, according to the consultant’s report.

The other district sizes include 9,725 people in District 2 (Yates, Ridgeway and small part of Shelby) and 9,747 in District 4 (Carlton, Kendall and most of Murray).

The deviation from the biggest to smallest is 4.2 percent, within the legal threshold.

The three at-large countywide positions don’t legally require any changes because they represent the same population – the entire county, according to the consultant.

Jeff Lewis, the Orleans County Democratic Party chairman, was among the speakers during a public hearing on Feb. 9, when he asked the redistricting go to seven districts with no county-wide positions.

Lewis attended the Tuesday meeting and asked the legislators if there was any consideration given to his suggestions and others made at the hearing.

“There was much consideration,” Johnson responded.

The Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against the Legislature about the redistricting. The group would like a bipartisan panel of local residents to draft a proposal for seven districts.

This shows the section of Shelby in red that will be included in the Yates-Ridgeway District and the section in blue that will be in the district that includes Barre, Clarendon and most of Shelby.