NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. -- What was supposed to be a fun challenge for a North Country Congressional candidate ended up exposing a major problem with the most recent re-districting before this past June's primary.
The campaign of Republican Matt Doheny, who's challenging Congressman Bill Owens for what will become the New York's new 21st District, posted a video to YouTube of Doheny naming all 193 cities and towns in the district by memory, with no help. It's a pretty impressive feat, but it turns out, a small part of the Village of Ballston Spa in the Town of Ballston in Saratoga County was added to the district and no one knew, not even the Saratoga County Board of Elections.
Doheny, who found all this out Wednesday in discussions with the Watertown Daily Times, tells us about 300 or so people in that Ballston Spa neighborhood didn't get to vote in the June primary he won against Kellie Greene because the race wasn't on the ballot. Those votes wouldn't have affected the outcome, but Doheny says that's not the point and there was clearly a major communication blunder in the re-districting rush.
"We were dumbfounded. We certainly work hard to get to every place in the district and we've been to this village, but no one ever said, including the actual people who conducted the primary didn't include it. We learned today, it's a public service and fortunately so that people aren't disenfranchised as we get into the general election," Doheny said.
Election officials say the problem has been fixed for the general election. And Doheny says he's now ready to name all 194 towns and cities in the district if ever challenged again.
We spoke with the Saratoga County Board of Elections commissioner regarding what happened. He says typically congressional lines follow town lines, not village lines, but that under the new redistricting lines, the congressional lines fall within two villages. The board says because they don't run village elections or take account of village lines, the new redistricting maps were hard to read.
"Whenever there is redistricting, it’s very difficult, especially when these new lines are drawn, we have to do street level details and parse these things out. You know, these houses are on one side, these are on another, the district line runs right through. That really happens," said Roger Schiera.
The board gets the redistricting maps from the courts and Schiera say the maps don't have the level of detail they are used to seeing.