Friday, May 15, 2015

Change May Be Coming . . . But Glacially

Ever since the amendments to the weighted vote, based on the 2010 census, were adopted, the growing inequity of Hudson's weighted vote system has been a topic of discussion on Gossips and elsewhere. Correcting the inequity has now been taken up by the very body whose votes are weighted and the only body that can amend the situation: the Common Council.

The topic of the weighted vote is now a regular item on the agenda of the Common Council Legal Committee, but given the course of action now being contemplated, the transition from a weighted vote system to an equal population system would not be effected for another year and a half and would possibly not be implemented until January 2018.

At the April meeting of the Legal Committee, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, presented a memorandum proposing a "Framework for a Resolution to Transition to Constitutional Voting in the Hudson City Council." He made reference to that memorandum at last night's Legal Committee meeting, but he had no copy of the document with him nor did any of the other members of the committee, and Alderman Rick Rector, who has joined the Council and Legal Committee since the committee's April meeting, had never seen it.    
The memorandum proposed, among other things, the creation of a "Redistricting Commission" to be tasked with dividing the city up into five equipopulous districts. The memo gives suggestions for how the members of the commission would be chosen.
  • The chair would be nominated by the mayor on the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Council.
  • Of the remaining twelve members of the commission (two from each of the current six election districts), two would be named by the mayor, two would be named by the Council president, and the rest would be nominated by the mayor on the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Council. 
  • The two members representing each election district cannot be of the same party nor can they both be NOPs (No Official Party).
The somewhat convoluted procedure for appointing members of the Redistricting Commission is meant to ensure that the commission is apolitical and nonpartisan, but, as Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) pointed out at the April Legal Committee meeting that, in a city made up predominantly of Democrats, the requirement that the two people representing each election district be of different parties artificially inflates the influence of parties that are in the minority in the city.

Last night the Legal Committee contemplated a multistep, multiyear course of action to achieve the goal of equitable representation in the Common Council. 
  1. The Common Council passes a resolution to get a referendum on the ballot for November 2015 in which residents vote on creating a Redistricting Commission.
  2. The commission is formed and is given a year to come up with a plan for redistricting that results in five districts of equal population.
  3. There is another referendum in November 2016 in which residents vote on accepting the proposed redistricting.
If the proposed redistricting scheme created by the Redistricting Commission is approved by referendum in November 2016, the redistricting might not take effect until January 2018, because only then could there be elected officials representing the new districts who had actually been elected by the voters of the new districts.

There have already been two exercises in dividing up the city into equal population districts. The first was done in 2003 by Bonnie Colwell and Tracy Delaney in the city clerk's office. The plan divided the city into six districts using the population data from the 2000 census.

The second was created recently by Stephen Dunn, Second Ward resident, attorney, and statistics aficionado. Dunn's scheme divides the city into five districts using the population data from the 2010 census.

There is a fair amount of similarity between the two schemes, because both take the current ward boundaries as a starting point and both demonstrate the principle that to achieve equal population districts, areas with greater population density must shrink geographically and areas with lower population density need to expand geographically. One wonders how much different a plan devised by thirteen people working for a year could possibly be.


  1. Why 5 districts? Why not 7? Or 10?

    1. The obvious answer is that they want to keep the current Council structure of ten aldermen, two from each ward/district, and one at-large Council president. Each of those representatives would have one--only one--vote.

  2. One person, One vote
    It's a Revolution