County takes another look at weighted voting


By Patsy Nicosia

One-man one-vote?
Or weighted voting?
Twenty-two years after supervisors last updated their weighted voting numbers—and decided not to count either students at SUNY Cobleskill, the jail, or what was then Camp Summit--they’re taking a look at it again.
Supervisors’ votes are “weighted” with, under the 2002 changes, one vote for each 10 residents in a town, based on the latest Census--in ’02, the 2000 Census.
Prior to that, the last updates were made in 1995, based on the 1990 Census; the most recent Census was in 2020.
If you think none of this matters, you weren’t in the audience, tracking the numbers, when supervisors voted in December not to renew Public Health Administrator Amy Gildemeister’s contract.
Because of weighted voting, if a missing supervisor had been there, the decision would have likely gone the other way.
Whether to include the SUNY and jail numbers was controversial in 2002 and at least for SUNY, is likely to be no less so in 2023.
Friday, Cobleskill Mayor Becky Stanton-Terk argued the SUNY students should be included.
“The law is the law,” she said. “The college students are there, voluntary, in the Village of Cobleskill, 10 out of 12 months. They are members of our communities.”
Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer disagreed.
“They are a transient population,” he said.
“I’m not so sure…” said supervisors’ chair Bill Federice of Conesville.
Most New York counties—41 out of 62--are now governed by legislatures, Treasurer Mary Ann Wollaber-Bryan said, and so one-man, one-vote.
Sixteen counties, including Schoharie, are governed by a Board of Supervisors and of those, 10 use weighted voting.
Mr. Federice has asked Gilboa Supervisor Alicia Terry to take a look at weighted voting—and whether it should be changed; Ms. Terry suggested bringing in a consultant.
“We have not had an outside entity take a look,” before. Ms. Terry said. “It’s been more homegrown.”
“We have 16 towns,” said Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner. “We all have the Census numbers. You add them up and weight the vote that way. Why is that not the process?”
“That’s what we’ve done the last two decades,”—Delaware County, too—said County Attorney Mike West.
An outside consultant would likely come up with different models, Mr. West said; supervisors would pick one.
“It’s not a bad idea,” to look at it,” he said. “It’s been 30 years.”
Carlisle Supervisor John Leavitt said he supports the idea of one-man, one-vote.
When he’s sitting in the Town of Carlisle, he represents the Town of Carlisle, he said.
“When I sit here [Schoharie], I represent the entire county. I firmly believe in one-man, one vote. In a lot of cases I’ve seen, because of weighted voting, we didn’t give fair representation to the entire county. I think changes are long overdue.”
Seward Supervisor Earlin Rosa, and Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe agreed.
“We represent the whole county when we get here, “ Mr. Skowfoe said.
Votes assigned to each town under the existing weighted voting formula are: