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Candidate says district 'possibly unconstitutional'

    WATKINS GLEN—Legislative candidate Mark Rondinaro spoke at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Schyuler County Legislature and also at the
legislative resolution review committee meeting regarding the voting districts and the local law that controls the election of legislators. Rondinaro claims that the current law, which provides representation by town, is confusing and possibly unconstitutional. He says that the current system allows for scenarios where the lowest vote getter in a given district could be elected to the legislature based on town residence.
    This confusion stems from Local Law No. 2 of 1971 which establishes three distinct voting districts for the Schuyler County Legislature. District 1 being the towns of Tyrone, Orange and Reading, District 2 being the towns of Dix and Montour and District 3 being the towns of Hector, Catharine and Cayuta. District 1 contains two legislators while District 2 and 3 each have three legislators. The law specifies that the two legislators from District 1 must reside in different towns and no more than two legislators elected from District 2 and 3 can reside in the same town.
    The purpose of the law is to provide equal representation for residents throughout the county. With no such system, a straight majority vote would create the possibility that all or a majority of the legislators would hail from the areas of densest population. The law has been the subject of litigation in the past and has survived judicial scrutiny.
    Even in the current election cycle the county is seeing the effect of the law. Dennis Fagan of Tyrone, Stewart Field of Reading and Mark Rondinaro of Reading are seeking the two seats in District 1. Fagan placed third in the primary voting, however he is nearly guaranteed a seat on the legislature as Rondinaro and Field are both residents of Reading. Under the law, District 1 can not have two legislators from the same town.
    Rondinaro went on to explain that although the voting districts were established to ensure equal representation, in the 40 years since the law was enacted the town populations have changed. He says the law may now promote unequal representation as the number of residents represented by a legislator varies greatly for each town and district based on the 2010 Census figures. Legislator Barbara Halpin agreed that the law was confusing and should be examined.
   County Executive Tim O’Hearn suggested a switch to voting districts based on population rather than town boundaries. He said that this system, which is used by other counties in the state, would ensure that each legislator represents the same number of residents. The other legislators agreed that the issue should be looked into and the law clarified or amended as need be. The issue was referred to the county planning department for recommendation.




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