Dutchess Legislature reapportionment wins voter approval

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POUGHKEEPSIE – On Election Day, Dutchess County voters approved “Proposition 1”, creating an independent Reapportionment Commission (IRC) to redraw the county’s legislative districts.  The law was adopted by the legislature last year and needed voter approval to move forward.

A total of 59,806 voters approved the plan while 36,202 people cast votes against the commission.

“We led the state with major government reforms: a comprehensive new ethics law, term limits for elected officials and truly independent redistricting. Voters spoke clearly – the residents of Dutchess will draw the lines and we take the parties and politics out of the process,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

The Democrat caucus of the legislature has been advocating for the creation of the IRC for more than two years.  Minority Leader Rebecca Edwards was pleased with Tuesday’s approval.  “Our caucus got the ball rolling on independent redistricting in 2018. We are delighted that the legislature, in a bipartisan initiative, sent it to the voters, who approved it November 3.”  Explaining the call for the IRC, Edwards said ” In the past, incumbent legislators have meddled in the redistricting process. It’s a great step forward to have an independent process next year.”

The commission is designed to be “detached from legislative authority or influence to ensure equal and fair representation to the people of Dutchess County,” according to officials.  In early October Molinaro announced that the county was seeking applicants to serve on the commission for the purposes of drawing legislative districts following the decennial federal census as required by the Dutchess County Charter. County residents that are interested in serving on the IRC can apply online at DutchessNY.gov/DrawTheLines.

Reapportionment is the process of allocating seats in the county legislature based on population and redistricting is the process of redrawing legislative district lines.

“This independent group of civic-minded citizens will be tasked with one of the most important responsibilities in our representative democracy,” Molinaro said. “Not only will this ensure honest representation in the Dutchess County Legislature, but the district lines drawn here will also be the basis upon which the district boundaries for our representatives in all branches and levels of government are established. I’m encouraging anyone who wants to take a more active role in our democracy to apply for the Independent Reapportionment Commission.”

As part of the reapportionment process, the county executive is responsible for establishing a pool of applicants who are registered to vote in Dutchess County and represent the geographic and demographic diversity of the County. In addition, candidates must not currently be, nor have been for at least three years prior, elected officials, employees of New York State, Dutchess County, or any town, city, or village in the county, or members of any political committee.

The pool of applicants must be submitted to the county legislature by January 2, 2021, for initial members of the IRC to be selected by the legislature’s majority and minority leaders. A total of seven residents will serve on the commission.

The full local law, including the power and duties of the commission members, is available online at the Dutchess County website.