Montgomery County Democrats say new legislative districts favor Republicans

Friday, January 18, 2013
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— Changes proposed by the Montgomery County Board of Elections to legislative district maps initially drawn up by a nonpartisan charter commission have raised concerns of alleged gerrymandering.

The changes would give two of the three Republican supervisors in the city of Amsterdam their own districts in the first election for seats on the new Montgomery County Legislature.

The Montgomery Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night will review the changes proposed by Montgomery County Republican Election Commissioner Terrance J. Smith and Democratic Deputy Commissioner Caroline Swartz.

The changes would move 1,492 city residents between wards to smooth out Legislative Districts 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Under these changes, Supervisor Vito Greco, R-1st Ward, would not have to run in a primary against Supervisor Ronald J. Barone Sr., R-3rd Ward, in District 8 — as would have been the case under the charter commission’s proposed map. Instead, each supervisor would run in a separate legislative district should they choose to seat a seek on the new county Legislature, Barone in District 8 and Greco in District 9.

Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Bethany Schumann-McGhee said she disagrees with the election board’s proposed changes.

“We should not make an apolitical process into a political one,” she said. “We should adhere to the lines of recommendations proposed by the nonpartisan commission.”

Supervisor Jeffrey Stark, D-2nd Ward, called the proposed changes unnecessary.

“We went from 28 residents having to be moved [in the charter commission’s initial maps] to 1,492, which is 10 percent of Amsterdam’s population. This is not what the majority of the Board of Supervisors wants. This is too much deviation,” he said. “It was not drawn bipartisan.”

Stark said Smith did not explain the reason for the changes.

“I see no reason why we have to move them. There is no reasonable explanation why we would have such disruption in present election districts. It is unnecessary,” he said.

Smith said he was trying to simplify the number of election districts in the city and save the county money. He said the county has to pay for two inspectors to observe in each voting district during an election. Under the proposed changes, the county would save $5,000 in election costs.

He said the proposal to split Greco and Barone off into separate legislative districts was not done with their elections in mind.

“I have no idea who is thinking about running or who wants to run,” Smith said. “I did not do this with anyone in mind, but to make my job easier.”

Glen town Supervisor Larry Coddington, a Republican, said he discussed the changes in detail with Smith on Friday.

“They moved the 1,400 to reduce the amount of voting districts. This will result in the saving of money and will make the election districts more acceptable,” he said.

Coddington also said he came away satisfied the changes were not an attempt to gerrymander the districts for the city supervisors.

“The perception is that it would help make it easier for someone to run, but that is not the intent. I am totally satisfied there is no intent to do that,” he said.

 

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