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OPINION: Public Participation is Critical to Upcoming 2022 Redistricting

By Will Barclay

Date:

The Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) announced recently that it would host eight public listening sessions across New York state prior to redrawing state legislative and Congressional district lines. It’s a process that takes place every 10 years to reflect population changes. The sessions are a result of a 2014 public referendum in which millions of New Yorkers voted in favor of a Constitutional Amendment assembling the IRC in the hopes of ensuring fair and honest guidelines for the upcoming 2022 redistricting effort.

While the listening sessions will be held virtually only, I encourage all New Yorkers to participate and have their voices heard. Similar to the importance of exercising your right to vote, participating in public forums such as this is an expression of our civic duty, vital to our communities and critical at every level of government.

 Each virtual meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and the schedule for the first round of hearings is as follows. Meetings were held on Tuesday, July 20 in Nassau and Suffolk counties and Thursday, July 22 in Queens County. Meetings are still to come in CNY on: Thursday, Aug. 5 in the North Country and Mohawk Valley; and Monday, Aug. 9 in the Southern Tier and Central New York.

  At the beginning of the year, Assembly and Senate Democrats voted to undermine the 2014 vote and devised a scheme that would change the threshold for new redistricting plans to be approved at both the commission and legislative levels. While this was nothing more than a pure political maneuver, I have repeatedly called on good government groups, the public, and lawmakers to see this for what it is — opportunistic and undemocratic.

In a democracy, every voice matters and every opinion counts. Sadly, when voices are stifled and the will of the people is ignored, people notice and start to look for “greener pastures,” just like 1.5 million New Yorkers have done over the past decade. As a result of this population loss, we learned earlier this year that New York lost one Congressional seat — diminishing our level of representation in the halls of Congress.

The only way to ensure fair and equitable representation at the state and federal levels, and that no special interest or political party gains an unfair advantage in the election process, is for the public to provide feedback and demand a transparent, balanced government. Residents in communities across the state cannot afford to lose representation — at any level.

More information about the regional redistricting meetings and how to participate virtually or submit testimony is available on the IRC’s website: https://www.nyirc.gov/meetings. The first redistricting proposal will be made public on Sept. 15; additional hearings will then be scheduled.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us. 

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