Democratic Dutchess legislators oppose move to “disband” independent redistricting commission

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POUGHKEEPSIE — Democratic legislators in Dutchess County have blasted sudden claims that the county’s independent reapportionment commission is “disbanded.”

   

Minority leader Rebecca Edwards described a memo she received from the county attorney’s office, who is appointed by the county executive, a Republican, as “ham-handed.” 

She said the law includes “a clear process for filling individual vacancies where necessary, but not a word about ‘dissolving’ or ‘disbanding’ the commission. That is undemocratic and unacceptable.”

 

Hours after the memo went out, Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver said he considers the commission dissolved and announced a proposal to shrink the legislature from 25 seats to 21.

 

“At a time when voting rights and democratic norms are under attack, this abrupt attempt to ‘disband’ an independent commission is outrageous. What is going on?” said Legislator Brennan Kearney (Rhinebeck/Clinton),

 

“The commission must be allowed to uphold the will of Dutchess voters, by continuing its work without interference,” said Assistant Minority Leader Nick Page (Beacon/Fishkill).

 

“The point of the commission is to elevate the power of the people above politics,” said Legislator Brendan Lawler (Hyde Park).  “We can’t reverse that and return to gerrymandering and partisan interference in redistricting.”

 

Appointed in February, the seven volunteer reapportionment commission members have been preparing to redraw the county’s 25 legislative districts based on 2020 census data.

 

For many years, Democratic lawmakers advocated an independent commission so county legislators could not gerrymander their own districts. In August 2019 Republican legislators submitted a bipartisan plan. Dutchess voters overwhelmingly approved it in November 2020.