Common Cause NY proposes big changes for North Country political districts

Common Cause New York, the political reform group that is pushing for more coherent political boundaries, has unveiled a series of maps that would bring big changes to the North Country.

The maps are unlikely to be enacted in their current form as the redistricting process continues, but Common Cause is hugely influential (check out Karen DeWitt’s story today).

Governor Cuomo says he wants a plan developed by some kind of independent group.  So here’s a first look at how CC NY’s plan would play out here in our back yard.


Under the group’s proposal, all of the North Country would be grouped under a single massive congressional district, based largely on the 23rd district now held by Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh.  (Check out the map here.)

But the long finger of political geography in the southwestern Adirondacks now held by Republican Richard Hanna (NY-24)  — whose district includes the area around Old Forge — would be sliced off.

So too would the long tendril of turf held by Republican Chris Gibson (NY-20) — whose district includes chunks of Essex, Warren and Washington counties — get the axe.

According to this map, a single lawmaker would represent more or less the entire Adirondack-North Country, from just north of the Mohawk Valley to the Canadian border, from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain.


Common Cause’s plan for the state Senate would still have the region divided unevenly between three districts, but the changes would be profound for Senators Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, two Republicans on the western side of our region.

Most of their districts would be merged into a single big chunk.  This is the kind of political match-up that political parties loathe, because it would pit two incumbents against each other.

Sen. Betty Little’s district in the east wouldn’t change all that much.  It would grow by pushing southward.

There would also be third, much smaller slice that would connect Herkmier County to a state Senate seat based in the Mohawk valley, so one chunk of the North Country would be pulled into a significantly different geographic orbit.

But that may make sense for a lot of voters in that region, who head south for shopping, services, etc.


The impact on Assembly seats, if Common Cause’s plan were adopted, would be profound.  Completely gone would be the so-called River District, the 118th, which stretches along the St. Lawrence River through Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.

Franklin County would be divided between two Assembly districts, with the northern half of the county lumped in with most of St. Lawrence County.

The northern half of Essex County would be lumped in with big sections of Franklin and Clinton Counties.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward’s district would push south into Washington County.


No one expects Common Cause NY’s plan to be adopted wholesale.  But there is growing pressure on lawmakers to adopt a district plan that is far less gerrymandered than in the past.

And with shifts in demographics, this set of maps gives some sense of how big the changes might be for our region.

Look the maps over and chime in.  Do you think this is a good road map for our political future?  Do you see big problems?  Comments welcome.

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6 Comments on “Common Cause NY proposes big changes for North Country political districts”

  1. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    Well, not being able to drive in and out of the 23rd Congressional district 7 or 8 times when driving between Saranac Lake and Glens Falls would take some getting used to, but the Congressional District change almost makes too much sense to be true. Probably the same for NY State districts, if similar to C.D. plan.

    Having a realistic, sensible, and non-partisan template for reform, and Gov. Cuomo looking over their shoulders and breathing down their necks, might be too much for the pols to overcome.


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  2. Pete Klein says:

    Looks reasonable to me but ultimately don’t care that much.
    What is not said, probably for obvious reasons, is many politicians assume they will get elected if they belong to the party that has the most registered whatever in a district. This is becoming less true, I think and hope.

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  3. This stuff is unsexy but important. Simply put, real competition is important in politics just as it is in business… and for the same reasons. The next step after this is to unrig electoral law’s bias against smaller parties. But I’m not confident of either happening.

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  4. Peter Hahn says:

    it would be nice if it happens, but Im not holding my breath

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  5. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    When I finally heard Brian’s report at 4:45, it came across that the redistricting proposed by Common Cause would probably result in the loss to the North Country of some representation in both Houses of the state Legislature. This might be more “fair” in the statewide picture, but hardly good news for our region.

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  6. Walker says:

    Right. This comes under the heading of “Be careful what you wish for.”

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