Creating the Franklin County Legislature

There are three candidates running for the Franklin County Legislature from our district; Barb Rice, Ed Randig and Curt Reynolds, with a fairly compact area to cover.

The Franklin County legislative District No. 7, representing our region includes the towns of Harrietstown and Franklin. But pity the person running in District #5, the largest in the county, which includes the Towns of Moria, Brighton, Santa Clara, Waverly and a small part of Bellmont. District No. 6 includes Tupper Lake and Santa Clara. Other districts are also spilt up to meet the population fairness. District No. 1, for instance, includes the Towns of Bombay, Fort Covington and Westville while District No. 2 has a piece of Bellmont, Burke, Chateaugay, Constable and Malone.

I think it’s worth examining how the legislature was created so here is some of what I wrote on that issue in 2003, more than 10 years ago.

Every ten years when the census is completed, all the voting districts in the United States have to be checked to see that the so-called one-man, one-vote decision by the United States Supreme Court back in the late 1960’s is being followed. That decision said that as closely as possible, an equal number of citizens of the United States must be represented by their elected officials, be it in the Congress or in the county legislatures.

We can use Essex County as an example of the way things worked prior to that Supreme Court decision and the way it worked in every county in New York State. All town supervisors made up the county board, as is still the form of government in Essex County. W hen the Supervisor of Newcomb, who represented 700 residents and the Supervisor of North Elba who represented 4,000 residents, voted on any issue they each had one vote. Essex County now has weighted voting so North Elba has 481 votes to 39 for Newcomb.

Franklin County was ordered to establish a Board of Legislators by State Supreme Court Judge Harold Soden. Franklin was divided into seven districts and an election was held for those new positions.

[I have to make a comment here. One used to hear how tough Judge Soden was; a former Marine, District Attorney and Town Supervisor but when I worked for him in the 1980’s, I can tell you he was one of the nicest men I ever met.]

I ran for that position that first year, as a Democrat, and lost to Bill Mansion who was then the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. A few years later Republican County Legislator Jim Finn, who was retiring from that position came to me and said: “If you want to run this year we won’t run anyone against you”. I chose not to run, but, wow, how politics has changed.

There are 62 counties in New York state. There are 57 counties outside of New York City, and 17 of those [at least that was so 10 years ago] are still represented by Boards of Supervisors.

The infighting really gets tough when the voting districts are redrawn for state and federal elected offices. The new district maps are drawn by the political party in power and they try to form those new districts which will favor their party by stretching the lines to include more of their constituents. The term gerrymandering is the one word often used to describe this district scrambling of lines. That word was coined when one Gerry Mander was running for Parliament in England many years ago when they probably used a rubber band to outline his district.

So, as our states lose population we lose seats in the House of Representatives. There are always 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, two to a state. But the strange thing brought about by population statistics is that Alaska and Vermont have more elected officials in the Senate than in the House where they each have 1. Each state is guaranteed one seat in the House by the U.S. Constitution, regardless of population.

Here are some of the latest populations figures for the top four states from 2006; California with 36,457,549 residents have 53 seats in the House; Texas with 23,507,783 residents have 32 seats in the House; New York State with 19,306,183 residents have 29 seats in the House and Florida with 18,089,888 residents have 25 seats in the House.

One of George Washington’s famous quotes was, ‘influence is not government”. Well, that was easy for him to say; can you remember who ran against him for President in 1789 and 1792? No one did, he ran unopposed.

(Last week at the end of this column I said I would tell you about a person who had roosters to give away, but the sign on their mailbox worked – Rooster – Free. They had one for dinner and gave the other three away.)