Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Equal Population Districts Might Look

At its last meeting, the Common Council Legal Committee took up the issue of the weighted vote, which, at the present time, gives the aldermen from the Fifth Ward votes that are twice as powerful as those cast by the aldermen from the Second and Third wards and nearly three times more powerful than the votes cast by the aldermen from the First and Fourth wards.

Weighted voting has been used since 1974 in Hudson to achieve the constitutional principle of "one person, one vote." The weight of the vote cast by every alderman is calculated based on the number of residents in the ward she or he represents. Every ten years, after the decennial census, the weighted vote is recalculated. 

As the table below shows, after the weighted vote scheme was implemented in 1975, nothing changed for the next three decades, presumably because there were no significant changes in the population of the five wards.

Changes to the weighted vote began in 2005. After the 2000 census, the First and Fourth wards each lost a significant number of votes; the Second Ward gained a little; the Third Ward gained quite a bit; and the Fifth Ward lost a little. In 2014, after the 2010 census, there were more dramatic changes. The Third Ward lost a third of its voting power, and the Fifth Ward's voting power increased by more than 30 percent. The Third Ward aldermen lost voting power because the ward lost population. In large part, the population loss was owing to the new law in New York State mandating that prisoners be counted, for legislative districting purposes, in the communities where they had lived prior to incarceration rather than in the communities where they resided as prisoners. The Fifth Ward aldermen gained voting power because the Fifth Ward was the only ward in Hudson whose population had grown. It was recently discovered, however, that a major part of the alleged population growth in the Fifth Ward was a mistake. The residents of the seventy units at Crosswinds, a development that didn't exist before 2008, voted in the Fourth Ward but were counted in the Fifth Ward for the purposes of determining the weighted vote. They strengthened the voting power of aldermen for whom they did not--could not--vote.

In the late winter and early spring, law students from Hofstra University, working with their professor, Ashira Ostrow, and Eric Lane, dean of the law school, studied aspects of Hudson's government. One of the topics was Hudson's weighted vote system. Two of the students, Brendan Friedman and Peter Barbieri, examined the weighted vote system to determine if it achieved the constitutionally required "one person, one vote" standard. Among the points made in the Executive Summary of their report was this: "The most common, and preferred, method of complying with one person, one vote is to draw districts with equal populations."

So what might the map of Hudson look like divided into districts with equal populations? Hudson resident Steve Dunn, a lawyer who has turned his legal mind and mathematical acumen to the issue of the weighted vote, created this map which shows a possible way to divide the city into five election districts that are very nearly perfectly equal in population.



  1. Mayors Allen, Yesko, Scalera, Tracy and Hallenbeck, were all one block away from living in Greenport. Fifty years of boulevard control over the city of Hudson.

    Guess we'll just sit back and wait for the "fifth ward royalists" to fall on the sword, and give up their stranglehold on the inner city.

  2. Crosswinds is in Ward 5 per the city charter. The location of Crosswinds is shown in Ward 5 in maps dating to the 19th Century. Crosswinds is in Ward 5 according to county tax records. Crosswinds is shown in Ward 5 in county board of election maps. These maps were used by the county planning office in determining the population of the wards.

    Despite the BOE maps showing Crosswinds in Ward 5, the voters who lived in Crosswinds voted in Ward 4.

    By far the largest error in determining the population of the wards was in overestimating the population of Ward 1 by 30%.