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November 5, 2012

Area voters to face redistricting

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — This year’s candidates on the campaign trail had to consider strategies to reach voters in their newly configured districts.

On Tuesday, their efforts will be tested. 

Voters will go to the same general election polling sites, but names on ballots may or may not be familiar, and views were mixed last week on whether voters grasped the impact of redistricting. 

“I’m not at all sure the voters know the impact,’’ said Howard Leib of Dryden, Democratic challenger of incumbent Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, for the 51st District of the state Senate. 

Maria Kelso, chairwoman of the Delaware County Democratic Republican Committee, expressed more confidence about voter knowledge regarding redistricting and what the ballots will look like on Election Day.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to most people,’’ Kelso said. ``People are more intuitive than we give them credit for.’’ 

Kelso said the candidates have been speaking about the redistricting as they circulated petitions and campaigned in their districts. They and their supporters also spoke at party functions about the changes, she said.

The U.S. Constitution requires that congressional and state legislative district boundaries be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts identified in the federal census. In the process, New York state lost two congressional seats.

The state also has a new map of Senate and Assembly districts. One seat was added to the Senate, from 62 to 63, and the number of Assembly seats remains unchanged at 150, according to the state Board of Elections.

Candidates have sent out many mailings to constituents, who are likely aware of changes from redistricting, said Sheila Ross, Republican commissioner at the Otsego County Board of Elections.

“The voters, if they’ve paid attention to their mail, they’ll be fine,’’ Ross said. 

Redistricting has meant changes in areas and constituent representation. 

Locally, for instance, the number of Assembly districts in Otsego County has increased from three to four as the result of redistricting, Ross said. Polling sites will be the same, she said. 

Sample ballots will be available at the polling sites Tuesday, she said, and elections inspectors can answer questions. The newly mapped districts will take effect Jan. 1, when successful candidates are sworn in, she said.

At the Delaware County Fair this year, the GOP had a booth with signs and literature to inform voters of the changes, Kelso said.

“We spoke with hundreds, I think, thousands of people,’’ Kelso said. Reviewing new districts was part of the effort to develop name-recognition of candidates, she said.

Seward said he put on many miles during his re-election campaign, including into new areas in the re-mapped 51st District. 

“I’ve given special attention to new areas of the district,’’ said Seward, who has been a senator for 26 years and is a native of Otsego County. Redistricting added 21 towns to the district — 11 in Delaware County, four in Ulster County and six in Cayuga County, he said.

Seward said he noted some confusion about the districts along the way as he introduced himself during visits to communities and going door to door. Campaign mailings also have been part of the outreach to the new districts, he said. 

For Leib, Seward’s challenger, the entire district was new election territory. 

Leib, who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last year about the redistricting process, announced interest in running for officer early this year, before the state’s Senate districts were reset. Campaign visits have included information about the redistricting, he said. 

But spreading the word about the changes is a job candidates alone couldn’t do, he said, and the League of Women Voters has helped. 

``I would hope that voters would know where their districts are,’’ Leib said.