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Independent group draws district maps


A good-government group has released a new set of political maps that would complicate the political situation in the Assembly, would further north country-ize our state Senate district, and would do what was expected of our congressional district.
The state is in the midst of a fight over the decennial redistricting process, wherein the changes in the state's population are borne out in the contours of district lines. That way, a Sen. Patty Ritchie represents roughly the same amount of people as a Sen. Joe Griffo.
The process has been derided by outside groups as an insider's game whose sole goal is the betterment of the politicians themselves, not the perfection of representative democracy. They want an independent group with an academic bent to draw the lines.
That's what Common Cause did. with a thorough detailing of district maps that follow the rules and don't take into account a sitting legislator's stats vis-a-vis R and D, or even where they live. Most tellingly, the maps are a demonstration not only of the fact that it can be done, but a demonstration of why it is politically so difficult to do so. That brings us directly to...
State Assembly
The new map for the state Assembly would create a north country Assembly district in which there are no sitting legislators.
The new 122nd Assembly District would be composed of the entirety of St. Lawrence County and part of Franklin County. No sitting legislator lives in St. Lawrence County — Assemblywoman Addie Russell, who represents the river towns, lives in Theresa, and Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, who represents the so-called "snowmobile" towns, lives in Black River, both Jefferson County locales.
It would put Mrs. Russell and Mr. Blankenbush in the same district — the 118th. That's something that neither of the former Jefferson County Legislature colleagues want. These certainly are independent lines — independent, and therefore politically messy.
State Senate
If Common Cause's recommendations are taken in their entirety, our part of the north country would have to say goodbye to Mr. Griffo, who represents Lewis County and part of St. Lawrence County.
Mrs. Ritchie would take up the a greater geographical swath of Northern New York, partially retreating out of Oswego County, which she represents in full right now. She would take the rest of St. Lawrence County, all of Lewis County and part of Oneida County.
According to vote totals compiled by Common Cause, her district would become less Republican, but only slightly so.
There is some speculation in the Ritchie office about whether getting the rest of St. Lawrence County would be a good thing for her. It's her home territory, but it's also home to Potsdam, the only town that Mr. Griffo lost his successful 2010 run. It's a college town, at that. But Mrs. Ritchie has probably earned some accolades in the twin college towns of Canton and Potsdam with her efforts to push back the consolidated presidencies at SUNIES Potsdam and Canton.
Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and his likely Republican opponent, Matt Doheny, have told me that they believe the 23rd Congressional District will, and should, remain relatively intact.
Common Cause agrees, coming out with a map that would make the 23rd a seemingly more sensible area of the north country and taking away land mass from some sitting legislators nearer to the Capital region.
It would also make it slightly more Democratic-leaning, according to presidential vote totals calculated by Common Cause. But it would avoid a primary fight between Mr. Doheny and Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (Ms. Buerkle instead would be in the same district as Republican Rep. Richard Hanna).
Draw your own
Think you can do any better than Common Cause did?
You can do it yourself on this site (h/t CapCon).

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