LOCKPORT — The Niagara County legislative redistricting committee has recommended changed boundaries for several districts in Lockport and Niagara Falls, to reflect local shifts in population since the 2010 Census.
The redistricting proposal is going to a public hearing tonight at 6 p.m. at the county courthouse in Lockport. A hearing was held in Niagara Falls on Tuesday. If the county legislature approves the proposed map, it would go into effect on Dec. 31, just prior to the winners of the November general election taking their seats for the 2022-2023 term.
While proposed changes to the 15-district legislative map are slight, Steve Brady, chair of the redistricting committee, said they were necessitated by an almost 12% difference between the largest increases and largest decreases in population within existing districts.
Census data showed the largest increase was in the current 12th District, the town of Lockport-centered district that includes a small portion of the city, where the population increased by 1,200 or 8.4%. Population of the Niagara Falls and Lewiston-based 6th district increased by almost 600 or 4.2%.
The largest decreases were in:
— The 2nd district, which covers a portion of Lewiston, the Tuscarora Nation and Wheatfield and lost 550 residents or 3.2% of its population.
— The 14th district, which encompasses all of Newfane and Somerset and a portion of the town of Lockport and lost about 400 residents or 2.8% of its population.
— The 9th district, which encompasses part of North Tonawanda and lost 533 residents or 3.8% of its population.
— The 4th district, the majority minority legislative district in Niagara Falls, lost 450 residents or 3.2% of its population.
The goal of redistricting is to keep the population of each legislative district roughly equal (to ensure "one person, one vote") while: keeping like communities (urban, rural, etc.) together as much as possible; not splitting a town that is smaller than a legislative district; and avoiding breakup of the majority minority district. The "ideal" population of any district, based on 2020 Census numbers, is 14,178 and deviation up to 10% less or more is considered acceptable.
Because population changes were not massive or widespread, Brady said, “The end result was we didn’t have to do a lot in terms of moving the legislative district boundaries. (But) the rule of thumb is, from the biggest gain and the biggest loss, you don’t want more than a 10% gap, and we were about a little over 12% from the biggest gain to the biggest loss.”
To correct this, the redistricting commission recommended moving almost 500 residents from the 6th district to the 4th district and, in Lockport, moving 745 residents out of the more populated 12th district into a neighboring district.
Of those 745 residents, according to the commission: the city-dominant 13th district would receive 397 and show an overall population gain of 3.2% (250 more people) versus a 1% loss; and the Royalton-Hartland dominant 15th district would receive the other 348 and show an overall population gain of 0.9% (121 more people), versus a 1.6% loss.
The 2020 Census showed that Niagara County's population has decreased by 3,803 since 2010.
The redistricting committee is composed of Brady, attorney Jason Cafarella, former county election commissioner Mary Anne Cassamento, GIS analyst/cartographer Lauren Masse and educator Bradley Rowles.