Dutchess Legislature takes first steps toward independent redistricting

POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Legislature’s Government Services and Administration Committee unanimously advanced a charter change for independent redistricting to the full legislature during a brief meeting Thursday.

If approved, the change will be put before the voters in November 2020.

The proposed charter change, based mostly on the Ulster Charter, would create a seven-person independent commission of county voters to redraw county legislative districts after each census. Members could not be elected officials, party officials or government employees. The legislature would not have final approval of the new map.

Democrats passed an independent redistricting law in 2009 when in the majority. As soon as Republican legislators restored their majority in 2010/2011 they repealed it, allowing legislators to draw their own districts.

“Adoption of an independent commission is great news for Dutchess County,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D, Town of Poughkeepsie). “It’s something Democrats have advocated for over a decade and passed once before.  Hopefully this law now establishes a permanent commitment to prevent any interference with redistricting by a party or by sitting legislators.”

“Could it be better if we had been allowed to start in May? Absolutely. But this is far better than the partisan gerrymandering process we have in place now,” said Assistant Minority Leader Kristofer Munn (D, Red Hook).

Chairman Gregg Pulver said, “Passing an independent redistricting commission has been a goal of this term and I would like to thank the sponsors (Sagliano, Miccio, Surman, Houston) of this bill for working towards that goal. As of now, we only have five sponsors- all Republican- but I am hoping for bipartisan support in the end. I am pleased that this proposal went through without opposition and without amendments so I expect final adoption at our September 9th Board Meeting. On Monday, Dutchess will become only the second County in New York State to have an independent redistricting law.”

The full legislature will vote on the charter change at their monthly meeting Monday night.

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