A proposition on the ballot for all Cayuga County voters this election season asks voters to say yes or no to temporarily reducing some county Legislature terms, but what is the measure's purpose?
The proposition, which appears on the back of the ballot, reads:
"Shall the term of Office for Cayuga County Legislators elected to the term beginning on January 1, 2022 be reduced from four (4) years to two (2) years to allow for redistricting based upon the 2020 Census and to set the term-limit for all County Legislators to a maximum of three (3) full elected four-year terms?"
The proposition is being made in advance of the 2020 U.S. Census, the results of which could lead to big changes on the Cayuga County Legislature.
The Legislature uses a weighted voting system in which legislator's votes are assigned points based on the population of the district they represent. The range of points currently goes from a low of 47 to a high of 86. There have been votes under this system in which a measure passed with a minority of the 15-person body in support because of the weighted votes. Critics of the system have advocated for working toward a "one person, one vote" process.
Based on the results of the Census, the Legislature will be required by law to reapportion its points in accordance with any shifts in population. But it can also take a look at other options.
Multiple legislators have expressed the view that the required reapportionment presents the perfect window of opportunity to implement other changes, including possibly changing the number of seats on the Legislature or redrawing legislative district boundaries.
That's where the ballot proposition comes in.
Currently, the Legislature's election cycles are staggered, with odd-numbered districts going up for the taking on different years than even-numbered districts.
According to the resolution authorizing this year's proposition, changing the number of seats — which would require its own referendum — would be "difficult if not impossible" without aligning the terms, hence the proposition.
"Therefore, it is the intent of the Cayuga County Legislature to modify its election cycle such that the term of all members of the Legislature will expire at the end of 2023 thereby allowing, if necessary, modification of district lines, and continuing concurrent four-year terms for all members of the Cayuga County Legislature thereafter," the resolution reads.
The ballot proposition also includes language stating that the term-limit for all legislators would be made a maximum of three full elected four-year terms.
This language was added, after multiple revisions, to clear up legal clutter from layers of previous term limits, and also to prevent any loopholes that might otherwise have allowed legislators to extend their time on the body, while not shortchanging legislators who were appointed to vacant positions.
In summary, if the measure passes, it opens up more options for the Legislature, and ultimately the public, to consider after the next census. A no vote would ensure the current weighted voted system remains in place with adjustments to the points each district is allotted.
Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin.
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