MAYVILLE - County lawmakers on Thursday proposed that an independent commission should draw new district lines for the legislature.
Legislators Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown, and Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, put forth the idea in a news release issued by their caucus.
New district lines need to be drawn based on the 2010 census results. Additionally, local lawmakers agreed last year to reduce the size of the legislature from 25 to no more than 19 members. With that work still ahead of the body, two county Democrats are calling for the new district lines to be drawn without regard to political affiliation or incumbent protection.
"Now that we have finally passed the reduction of the size of the county legislature, it is critical that we follow a process that produces districts with the communities across Chautauqua County in mind, not political parties or incumbent legislators," DeJoy said.
Both DeJoy and DeJoe indicated that they are in the process of reaching out to legislators in each party to gain support and input on the idea of such a commission.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to restore faith in our redistricting process by doing the right thing by establishing an independent commission to create legislators' districts that are good for the people, not for the politicians and political insiders," DeJoe said. "I am looking forward to passing legislation to create an independent commission with bipartisan support."
In Thursday's news release, the legislators said they are looking for individuals from independent groups like the League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association, from within academia and from other places as well.
The intent is to have such members of the community serve on the commission and also suggest other independent organizations that may similarly have members interested in helping along the redistricting effort.
The legislators further explained that such a commission could begin work immediately after the final number of legislative districts is determined. The referendum vote in November's election passed overwhelmingly by the voters in support of downsizing the County Legislature to 19 members. DeJoy and DeJoe will seek bipartisan support and introduce their resolution in the coming weeks.
"We are working together on this and want it to be fair," said Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, in support of the independent redistricting commission.
Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, echoed the idea of working in such a cooperative manner.
"I have had discussions with fellow legislators and believe there is an opportunity for a nonpartisan, independent commission that will put the people first," Cornell said. "Mr. Barmore and I are committed to developing a cooperative plan that earns support of both caucuses. I commend legislators DeJoy and DeJoe for taking the lead on this issue."
Early last year, the League of Women Voters called for individuals outside of government to be involved in the process of redrawing legislature district lines.
"This something that the Republican caucus was planning to contact the democratic caucus about, (but) Mrs. Cornell just beat me to the punch," Barmore also said. "I agree with Mrs. Cornell that we need to involve community members in this process and to make sure that we are as transparent as possible in all we do. Over the past few years, the legislature has given the public the impression that all we do in Mayville is argue, although 98 percent of all the business that we conduct is agreed to nearly unanimously. It is time that we show the people of Chautauqua County that both sides can work together. We will have our differences, I'm sure, but we need to be able to work them out in a professional manner, and I'm am sure that this is a point that Mrs Cornell would agree on wholeheartedly."