Collins Proposes Legislation Creating Erie County Redistricting Commission

July 11, 2011 Updated Jul 11, 2011 at 5:41 PM EDT

By WKBW News

July 11, 2011 Updated Jul 11, 2011 at 5:41 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Erie County Executive Chris Collins on Monday proposed legislation creating a non-partisan, independent redistricting commission.

This new approach to redistricting in Erie County, to be finalized and submitted to the legislature this week, will establish an impartial citizen reapportionment committee with comprehensive community representation in order to draw a new, realistic map for County legislative districts.

This legislation will not impact the current redistricting process, but if passed will affect the next redistricting which occurs every ten years in line with the United States Census.

“The taxpayers of Erie County have a right to a fair and non-partisan redistricting process, and I think that is exactly what this new approach will accomplish,” said Collins. “The current redistricting process has not adequately served our taxpayers, and this will serve to avoid any and all potential future conflicts.”

To ensure compliance with state and federal election regulations, and to guarantee fair and non-partisan representation, the commission would be comprised of seven citizen members recommended by the following organizations:

• The University at Buffalo Law School
• The Buffalo Urban League
• The Erie County Farm Bureau
• The Association of Erie County Governments
• The League of Women Voters
• The Buffalo Niagara Partnership
• The Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council

“By including representatives from all of these significant organizations, the taxpayers of Erie County will feel comfortable knowing that they are fully represented and the most logical map will be drawn in their best interests,” Collins said.

This legislation will outline four key criteria any new plan must meet, including:

Equal representation – This new legislation will minimize disparity among each legislative district and propose districts as equal in population and representation as possible.

Communities of interest – It will ensure that communities of interest are kept together and protected, so the unique characteristics and nature of Erie County’s diverse communities are adequately represented in the legislature.

Urban and rural communities – It will minimize vastness and protect the interests of urban and rural areas to ensure proper representation in each district for its residents.

Compact and efficient districts – To increase efficiency and completely eliminate the opportunity for political advantages for any one party, the new legislation will call for the creation of the most compact, least gerrymandered districts as possible.

“This bill will benefit residents and ultimately make the process much more efficient,” said Collins. “It will establish what I believe will prove to be a truly fair, independent and non-partisan committee.”

Finally, Collins proposed measure would ensure a true citizens committee, by requiring the named organizations to designate members who have not:

• Held previous elected office in the last 3 years
• Been the spouse of or directly related to an elected official
• Served in an official capacity within any political party

In order for this piece of legislation to be approved, it must first be introduced as a local law and passed by the Erie County Legislature. Upon approval by the Erie County Executive, this new approach to reapportionment will amend Section 210 of the Erie County charter which pertains to the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment. It will then require approval at a referendum.

“This is a real attempt at taking politics out of the process completely and making it the fairest plan possible for everyone who will benefit - the taxpayers of Erie County,” Collins said.