COOPERSTOWN -- Otsego County planners are digging into the latest census data in a study that could help determine how much clout is wielded by each of the 14 members of the county Board of Representatives.
The aim of the research is to use the census information to adjust the number of weighted votes assigned to each member of the board, which has seven Republicans and seven Democrats.
The study has already found that 2010 U.S. Census data for the city of Oneonta is faulty because it listed zero population for a census block that includes Curtis Hall, a student residential dormitory at the State University College at Oneonta, said Otsego County Planner Terry Bliss.
The students residing in that dormitory were listed as residing in an adjacent census block, he said.
"We don't have a problem with the total population of the city, according to the census," Bliss explained. "We have a problem with the way they distributed it."
In the 2010 census, the city of Oneonta's population was pegged at 13,901 residents -- up roughly 4 percent from the 2000 total of 13,292.
Another "serious problem" that is being reviewed by the Planning Department involves census numbers from the town of Unadilla, Bliss said.
The latest census puts Unadilla's population at 4,392 -- a drop of 156 residents since the 2000 census, he noted.
Unadilla officials have "reservations" with the new number, believing it is too low, and are working with the county planning department in hopes the population number will be adjusted upward, Bliss said.
The Census Bureau has a "Count Question Resolution" process that allows local governments to challenge the 2010 census figures. The agency will accept challenges to its population totals up to June 2013, he said.
Rep. Rich Murphy, D-Oneonta, said he hopes redistricting of lines for Board of Representatives seats can be "put on the fast track" once the Unadilla numbers are pinned down.
"You want the numbers to be as accurate as possible," Murphy said." But I would hate to see this process delayed unnecessarily."
He said the Board of Representatives will be able to consider a range of options, including shelving the current system and adopting a Board of Supervisors form of governance, made up town supervisors. Another approach would be to whittle down the current 14-member board to 12 or 11 members. Still another would be to scrap the weighted-vote system.
The goal of locking down the number of weighted votes in each district as it is currently formed will help set the stage for the redistricting process, both Bliss and Murphy said.
"If they (the Board of Representatives) want to increase or decrease the number of districts, that is up to them to consider," Bliss said.
Ideally, Murphy said, each member of the Board of Representatives would be within 5 percent of the weighted vote total carried by any given colleague. Currently, there is wide disparity.
The board began the year with Republicans holding a total of 3,529 weighted votes to 2,638 weighted votes for Democrats.