Weighty Issues in County Politics

Here’s the latest Schenectady County political issue that I’m digging into. I’m sure it’s far more arcane and complicated than I can adequately describe in a brief blog post, but let me give it a shot.

According to the latest census data, action is required on the part of the county legislature to ensure relatively equal representation in the county. Due to uneven shifts in the county’s population over the last decade, the City of Schenectady is not being adequately represented in the legislature. Legislators from the city effectively represent more constituents, (per legislator), than is the case in the rest of the county.

It’s a problem that requires a solution, and apparently it needs to be solved quickly. As I understand it, that solution has to happen within 60 days of receipt of the census data.

There are two options most frequently discussed. The first is to increase the number of county legislators by adding nine more. Yikes. I have yet to figure out the math for that idea. Fortunately, I haven’t heard anyone who supports it.

The other, and the one proposed by the legislature, sounds a bit more sane… at least on the surface. It’s a weighted voting system that will change the value of each legislator’s vote based on the district they represent. For example, legislators from District 4, (the district I’m running in), will have a vote valued at less than those of a legislator representing a district in the city. Here’s the breakdown:

  • District 1 (City of Schenectady): 1.0572
  • District 2 (City of Schenectady): 1.0799
  • District 3 (Niskayuna, Scotia, Glenville): 0.9939
  • District 4 (Rotterdam, Duanesburg, Princetown): 0.9048

A weighted voting system sounds better than adding a bunch of legislators, right? Well, here’s a sticking point: it might not be constitutional. That’s the argument being made by minority leader Robert Farley, and I think we need to take that argument very seriously. The weighted system seems like a way to “game” the system, and it makes me very antsy.

Personally, I think we should be looking at other solutions, too. But since it was proposed by the majority Democrats, I wouldn’t hold my breath that another solution is likely. Next month’s legislature meeting will have a period of public comment, but I expect the weighted system will pass. Could be an interesting period of public comment, though.

I have yet to see all 15 legislators present this year during all votes at legislative meetings. Conceivably, with only an even number of legislators in attendance, a vote could come to a tie. But what happens when the weighted system is applied? Would the passage or failure of a resolution come down to tiny fractions of a vote? Does that open up the county to lawsuits? Is it even legal?

I plan to ask that during the public comment period.

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4 Comments

  1. Lee Abbott

     /  April 19, 2011

    1 man, 0.9 vote?
    whatever happened to gerrymandering?

    Reply
    • Supposedly, if the district lines get redrawn the entire legislature will face election. Not sure about that, though. However, it won’t totally surprise me if that happens.

      Reply
  2. Weighting is just another way around the well established principle of one man, one vote. Can one person equal more or less than one other person?

    Reply

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