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Redistricting moves full steam ahead with release of new Census data

A map of Niagara County
Niagara County
Niagara County's reapportionment committee is moving full steam ahead now that the 2020 Census has been released.

Across New York, the entire machinery of redistricting has been stalled because the the 2020 Census has been months behind schedule.

With the population numbers finally arriving Thursday, for politicians and everyone else to parse them and decide what voters they want in their districts,the process is starting to operate again.

Niagara County Legislature Chair Rebecca Wydysh said her county's re-apportionment committee has met to talk about the process. They went through the rules and the procedures, and started to familiarize themselves with how this process would play out.

Now everything will shift into full operation.

"Now that the numbers are coming in, I would expect that they would be getting together in the very near future. We haven't set a date yet, again, because the numbers are just being released, but I would anticipate we will have a few meetings in the very near future," Wydysh said. "Of course, we will have public hearings and those meetings will be open to the public, as well for public comment, and by the end of the year we should have a plan to be voting on."

For Niagara County, this will be a much simpler process than 10 years ago. Then, not only were lines being changed to reflect population change, the number of county legislature districts was also cut from 19 to 15.

New York is expected to have two fewer congressional districts when redistricting is complete.

Speaking to New York's Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission Thursday, Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin suggested Rep. Brian Higgins' current district, with its connections of Buffalo and Niagara Falls and inner-ring suburbs, is ideal because it unites communities that have much in common. Baskin suggested keeping that core district in place.

Higher on the list for redistricting is NY-23, which runs from Tioga County west to Lake Erie and is represented by Republican Tom Reed. Reed is not seeking re-election.

Chairman of the state redistricting commission, David Imamura, this week said the panel will craft draft maps and release them around the middle of September. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the draft maps before they are delivered to the state legislature for approval early next year.

WSKG's Vaughn Golden contributed to this story.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.