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Wednesday 30 September 2020
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Bello Wants to Take Census-Related Redistricting Out of Hands of Politicians

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Monroe County Office Building. File photo

Headlines about the 2020 Census focus on how it determines the amount of federal funding each community receives and the number of representatives a region sends to Congress.

The results also affect your neighborhood because the census count redraws local districts — and those boundaries can determine who you get to vote for.

It’s another reason why it matters to get everyone to fill out the census. The form does not ask personal information such as Social Security number.

In the past, this redistricting has been done by county legislators and political party leaders.

County Executive Adam Bello is calling for a more neutral process.

On Aug. 7, Bello proposed amending the Monroe County Charter to establish an independent redistricting commission.

“When I was campaigning for County Executive, I pledged to change the way we do business by taking politics out of county government,” Bello stated in a news release.

“This independent, citizen-led commission would help ensure lasting openness and transparency in this important process, taking it out from behind closed doors and removing those with a vested, political interest in the outcome,” he wrote. ” … Our democracy is built on voters picking their representatives, not representatives picking their voters. This is our chance to make real reform to the redistricting process and build confidence in those we represent.”

In his letter to the legislature, Bello wrote, “As you know, following the completion of the 2020 United States Census, the legislative districts of Your Honorable Body must be redrawn to ensure equal representation of Monroe County residents. It is imperative that the districts be drawn in a non-partisan and transparent manner.”

Bello wrote that in 2014, voters approved a state independent redistricting commission for state Senate and Assembly districts.

Bello’s proposal for Monroe County is similar. “Creating an Independent Redistricting Commission will ensure that voters have confidence that the redistricting process is fair and impartial.”

Under his proposal, the independent commission would draw “compact, contiguous districts” that will seek to avoid dividing towns, villages and city neighborhoods. Monroe County has 29 legislative districts, which will remain under the proposed law. Currently, towns such as Henrietta, Pittsford, Ogden and Gates have multiple legislators.

Monroe County Legislature Minority Leader Vince Felder, a fellow Democrat, said in a news release that Bello’s announcement was the first time he heard of the idea.

He said the county charter gives the legislature the responsibility of drawing boundaries “as the representatives of the people.” Felder said he was not inclined to support the legislation because it violates the separation of powers in the charter, which does not give the county executive a role in redistricting.

Bello’s proposal calls for the eight-member volunteer commission to have a chairperson who will selected by at least five of its members. None of the commissioners will be compensated.

The commission will be made up of:

  • the two commissioners of the Monroe County Board of Elections;
  • two retired judges who maintain their permanent residences in Monroe County, one to be appointed by the Majority Leader of the Monroe County Legislature and one to be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Monroe County Legislature;
  • two representatives recommended by a publicly recognized organization committed to voters’ rights, one to be appointed by the Majority Leader and one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Monroe County Legislature;
  • two representatives of a publicly recognized organization committed to the rights of racial or ethnic minorities, women, persons who identify as LGBTQ, or persons with disabilities, one to be appointed by the Majority Leader and one to be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Monroe County Legislature.

The following are ineligible to serve on the commission: anyone elected to any federal state or local office within the past 10 years; anyone who currently holds or has held a party position in the previous five years; paid consultants or lobbyists within the previous 10 years; anyone who is a parent, child, sibling or spouse of any current member of the Monroe County Legislature or of any political party officer above the level of committee member.

The proposal has to go through the legislative process. The legislature can approve or reject the law, but it cannot make amendments.