County’s election districts stalled

MAYVILLE – An “imaginary line” in the town of Busti has halted implementation of new county legislative districts.

Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green on Thursday blasted legislature majority leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry. Barmore brought forward the new redistricting plan, which was drafted into a local law and approved by the legislature.

During a special meeting Thursday, Green and Brian Abram, county Republican election commissioner, split on a vote to move forward with adoption of the district lines. Both Green and Abram must agree before the adoption continues.

The problem, Green said, is that legislative districts 10 and 17, both in Busti, lack tangible boundaries to set each district. The line separating the two districts falls just south of Cowing Road.

Green said without a street, creek or city block to determine boundaries, election commissioners must guess where to place each district.

“It requires a leap of faith and adherence to an imaginary line for staff to be able to complete their work,” he said.

Green also found fault in election districts established in the city of Jamestown.

“At every meeting of the reapportionment committee I asked that Jamestown city ward lines be respected and that the board of elections be consulted in the process,” he said.

“In the end the Board of Elections was not consulted and Jamestown city ward lines were not followed, causing much unneeded future voter confusion and taxpayer expense. We now have several election districts in the county with very small numbers, as low as 52 voters.”

Asked to comment, Barmore noted the district lines were approved by the legislature after more than two years of planning. Lawmakers voted to downsize the legislature from 25 districts to 19 after overwhelming support by voters in a referendum a year earlier.

“We told the group that drew the lines what we wanted and this is the plan that we got,” Barmore said. “We had the attorney look at them and they were based on populations. We voted on it, and it passed.”

As for the criticism by Green, Barmore said, “I think he’s just grasping at straws here. I really don’t know what those straws are, to be honest with you.”

Abram said he was fine with the districts. “After reviewing the information with counsel, I’m OK with the line where it is,” he said.

Green, meanwhile, said the new districts must be set by June 4. He added that he has contacted Steve Abdella, county attorney, to seek a court order to fix the district line in Busti and the election districts in Jamestown.

“Until we resolve the issue,” he said, “we are a standstill at the board of elections and we need to ready ourselves for the political petition-filing season.”

Primary elections in the county are Sept. 10; the general election is Nov. 5.