FULTON, NY – On December 28, 2012, the Oswego County Legislature passed a reapportionment plan, which re-drew the boundaries of the county’s 25 legislative districts.
This plan received opposition back in December. And, today (April 30), Legislator Dan Farfaglia of the 24th District (encompassing parts of the city of Fulton and town of Granby) called a press conference where he and fellow Democrat legislators Amy Tresidder (16th District) and Doug Malone (20th District) announced plans to have the redistricting plan declared illegal.
“A few hours ago, I and 10 other plaintiffs set into motion a process we hope will eventually lead the board to declare invalid the 25 districts that were passed by the county legislature back in December,” said Farfaglia.
The plaintiffs allege that towns were “intentionally and illegally split,” which violates municipal home rule law and is unfair to the people of these towns.
According to the law, populations in each district should be as close as possible, which is about 5,000 people. Any district can’t have 5% more or 5% fewer people than another district.
The concern is that communities have been split up and then “combined with other municipalities that have little to no economic, social, governmental or historical connection,” Farfaglia said.
“Our goal is to invalidate that plan developed by the majority’s reapportionment committee and replace it with a set of legislative districts that are supported by the public, legal, and keep communities of interest together,” he said.
Farfaglia noted that the majority of the public also opposed the plan.
“This is not just a democratic issue,” Farfaglia explained. “It’s a people issue.”
The legislators also announced a proposal for a local law to create an “independent and bipartisan redistricting commission that would re-draw the lines the next time the county needs to change them.”
“The point being that this should be done by people other than legislators,” said Tresidder. “By people who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome.”
The next step will be an order to show cause in front of Judge Norm Seiter, though no dates have been set yet.
The hope is the judge will declare the current plan null and void, at which point he can call for a new vote and a new plan, create his own, or keep the previous district lines.
“They put the wrong plan out there,” said Farfaglia.
Farfaglia, Malone, Tresidder, and the other plaintiffs want the people of Oswego County to be fairly represented and don’t believe the current plan allows the voices of the people to be heard.
“It’s not in the best interest of the people we represent,” said Chip Kio, a Volney Town Council member in regards to the current plan.
“I took an oath as a legislator,” said Farfaglia, “to abide by all the laws in the books. Not just pick and choose for political convenience.”
In response to the lawsuit, Legislature Vice Chairman (and currently acting chair) Kevin Gardner said, “We believe it was all legal, and we’ll wait for the court’s ruling.”