Redistricting in Sullivan County

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 5/18/22

MONTICELLO, NY — While New York State debates its districts for the 2022 election cycle, Sullivan County is preparing for its elections in 2023.

The county is required by state law to redraw …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Redistricting in Sullivan County

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — While New York State debates its districts for the 2022 election cycle, Sullivan County is preparing for its elections in 2023.

The county is required by state law to redraw its legislative districts, the nine districts that elect the nine members of the Sullivan County Legislature, following the population shifts documented in the 2020 census. On April 7, the legislature signed a contract with Main Street Communications (MSC) to do that.

MSC is a Democratic media firm that boasts a strong record of success supporting Democratic candidates in congressional races with “a smartly conceived, unconventional and well executed strategy and creative, attention-grabbing TV and radio ads.” As Main Street Redistricting, the company has worked since 1995 with municipalities across the country to draw up their redistricting maps.

MSC is led by Dave Heller, a media consultant and campaign specialist with expertise in redistricting. “When you hire Main Street, you get me. I will personally handle all of the work,” Heller wrote in his proposal to the legislature.

As laid out in the proposal, that work includes analysis of the new census data, discussions with the legislature about the process and the goals of redistricting and an adherence to six principles: compactness, contiguity, racial balance and minority opportunity, preservation of communities, respect for neighborhood boundaries and equal distribution of population. “The process would be open, honest, transparent, inclusive and fair; redistricting would be data-driven and would occur without fear or favor,” wrote Heller.

MSC has drawn up the Sullivan County’s redistricted maps in each of the previous two cycles, according to legislators. Ira Steingart, one of two members of the legislature who was present in a previous cycle, says he believes the firm is a good choice. “They were responsive to all the requests made of them. Our goal was to make as few changes as possible with making the numbers work.”

The process of redistricting

Heller met with legislators on May 12 to discuss the redistricting process and the current cycle’s redistricting goals. His role was a computational one, he said. “There’s a software program that I will use and I will take that data and I will use that data to draw new district lines that will balance out the population of each of your nine districts.” Under federal law, the variation between districts could be as much as 10 percent, but his clients typically went with under two percent.

Heller’s discussion with the legislature revolved around what kinds of data would be included to make those decisions.

Legislators ruled out the option of providing Heller with political data revealing how different districts voted, preferring to have him work solely from the demographic census data. Other MSC redistrictings have involved one-on-one conversations with the parties involved, according to the MSC website; legislators preferred to have Heller work solely with county manager Josh Potosek, and all business with the legislature would be channeled through Potosek.

“If you get any type of calls from anybody or anything, if you’re getting any kind of influence or push from somebody, I would like you to definitely notify this legislature,” said legislator Joe Perrello; if anyone other than Potosek contacted Heller, it would be considered a breach of the process’ integrity.

Legislators agreed in theory that the redistricting process should attempt to keep the boundaries of districts similar to their current shape, while acknowledging the population growth that had occurred in the eastern half of the county. They did suggest that some changes may need be made; legislator Nadia Rajsz pointed to her district 2 as the largest, and requested that it be restructured to make it more manageable.

A timeline for the process was also discussed. Once the draft maps were finished, all involved parties should get them at the same time, said legislative chair Robert Doherty. That time should be no later than June 18, he said, and the maps should go out to the public shortly thereafter.

The legislature concluded by approving the purchase of Maptopia, a mapping software that MSC can use to access census and voting record data.

For more on redistricting in Sullivan County, click the links below:

County redistricting revisited.

Contested districts and healthy habits.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here