The Orange County Legislature has taken a significant step towards its upcoming redistricting process by hiring Boston-based Applied Geographics. The resolution to hire the consulting firm was passed on July 6, following a selection process conducted by a committee.
Out of the four firms considered, Applied Geographics was selected based on its qualifications, experience, timelines, and costs, according to a recent rules committee meeting. The firm boasts over 30 years of experience in providing geospatial solutions to businesses and local governments across the country, as stated on its website.
The county has allocated approximately $80,000 for the contract with Applied Geographics, emphasizing the importance it places on ensuring a fair and accurate redistricting process. This process is mandated by the county charter, which requires the boundaries for legislative districts to be redrawn following each decennial U.S. census. The most recent census data, released in 2021, revealed that the county’s population had grown by nearly eight percent over the past decade, surpassing 400,000 residents.
Currently, Orange County is divided into 21 districts, with each district represented by one legislator. However, the recent passage of a state law has set new guidelines for population differences among county legislative districts. The law stipulates that population sizes in single-member districts, such as those in Orange County, should be as equal as practically allowed. The difference between the most and least populous districts within a county cannot exceed five percent of the mean district population. This change marks a move towards greater equity and representation in the county’s legislative districts.
The state law also emphasizes the importance of protecting the rights of minority groups to participate in the political process. County legislative districts must not be drawn in a way that denies or weakens opportunities for these groups to have a voice in their representation.
The decision to hire Applied Geographics was influenced by a recent case in nearby Ulster County. In this case, an illegal redistricting map was passed, with a variance that exceeded the five percent threshold set by the new state law. The court ordered Ulster County to produce a new map that complies with the law. To avoid similar legal complications, Orange County has sought the expertise of Applied Geographics to ensure a lawful and fair redistricting.
Orange County Democratic legislator Genesis Ramos expressed confidence in the capabilities of Applied Geographics, highlighting the expertise of their legal counsel in redistricting. Ramos stated, “I have full faith and trust that we are moving in the right direction.”
The selection committee responsible for choosing Applied Geographics included representatives from both major political parties in the county, as well as members from the Conservative and Independence Party. This bipartisan committee reflects a commitment to an inclusive and nonpartisan redistricting process.
By engaging the services of Applied Geographics, Orange County has demonstrated its commitment to a transparent, accurate, and fair redistricting process. The consulting firm’s extensive experience and expertise will play a vital role in ensuring that the county’s legislative districts accurately represent its evolving population while abiding by the guidelines set by the new state law.