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Motion to preserve 23rd Congressional District falls short

Local leaders aren’t united if Chautauqua County should remain in the 23 Congressional District after next year.

During the county Legislature meeting Wednesday, lawmakers voted 11-6 urging the “preservation of existing boundaries of New York State 23rd Congressional District.” Even though that is the majority, a minimum of 13 votes are required for the motion to be forwarded to the state Independent Redistricting Commission.

Following the 2020 Census, new congressional district lines must be drawn based on population. New York state is losing one congressional representative. Current Rep. Tom Reed has announced he will not run again in 2022, when the new district lines are enacted.

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon requested the county Legislature pass the motion. It states that, “counties along New York State’s Southern Tier constitute a substantial community of interest, with a common and integrated regional economy,” and also that “residents of the Southern Tier have common concerns about access to quality health care and the sustainability of rural health care providers.”

The motion urged the Independent Redistricting Commission and the state Legislature to “continue the state’s longstanding practice of combining the Southern Tier counties in a single congressional district because they constitute a community of interest whose residents are best represented by having a united voice in the United State House of Representatives.”

Before the vote, Legislator Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, said she feels the Independent Redistricting Commission should look at districts in an impartial way and prefers to let citizens voice their own opinions.

No one else spoke before the vote. Of the 19 members of the county legislature, two Republican legislators — Tom Harmon of Silver Creek and Ken Lawton of Busti — were absent. Along with Starks, the four other Democratic legislators — Robert Bankoski of Dunkirk, Chuck Nazzaro of Jamestown, Paul Whitford of Jamestown, and Robert Whitney of Jamestown, along with Bill Ward, R-Mayville, who is running for re-election on the Democratic line, but lost the Republican line in a primary this summer. All the remaining 11 county legislators, who are also all Republican, voted in favor.

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