JAMESTOWN – The local election season is off to a rough start this year. On Thursday, the Chautauqua County Board of Elections met in a special meeting, with Democratic commissioner Norman Green and Republican Commissioner Brian Abram at odds over drawing the new voting district lines for 2013.
According to Green, he is unable to support any new voting district lines because the county legislature districts that were drawn up and approved last year are flawed. According to Green, the new legislative district plan is creating problems in a couple of areas.
“In the Busti area, the official wording doesn’t give us specifics to go by so it’s impossible, in my opinion, to be able to draw the legislative lines and the [voting] district lines in that area,” Green said. “And further we had the drawing of the legislative lines was done in such a way – not following city ward lines – and causing us to draw [voting] districts that are extremely small, having just 52 voters in one case.”
Green adds that the legal plan for the legislative district line for the area of Busti includes a reference that the dividing line is a short distance south of Cowing Road. He says that descrption requires a leap of faith, and adherence to an imaginary line the board of elections staff would need to follow to be able to complete their work.
Green also says that while some voting districts in the county have has many as a thousand people, one of the districts in Jamestown is forced to have just over 50 people, making the plan very inefficient.
The new legislative lines were approved last October and known as the “Barmore Plan” because they were submitted by legislative majority leader Larry Barmore (R-Gerry) and were an alternate to a plan that was being created by an independent reapportionment commission. In addition to having new districts that follow the most recent census data from 2010, the legislature also had to approve a plan that reduced the number of districts from 25 to 19, per a public vote that took place in the county back in 2011.
With the new legislature district boundaries approved more than six months ago, WRFA asked Green why he waited until now to raise his concerns about the new district lines.
“First, when the lines were enacted, over the next couple of months we were totally absorbed into running an election,” he explained. “As soon as we cleared the election off of our plate we then moved forward and started looking at the lines. It’s a very long process and it was only recently that we came across the error, within the past couple of weeks.”
Green says because he feels it is impossible to draw the boundary line for the new District 17 in the town of Busti, it could compromise the entire plan. As a result, he’s asking the county attorney for legal assistance on this issue, including seeking a Supreme Court order to fix the boundary line issue and correct the 52 voter mini-district in Jamestown. Green says until the board resolves the issue, they are at a stand still at the board of elections.
Residents who wish to run for public typically begin circulating petitions and seeking party nominations in June.