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St. Lawrence County official 'disgusted' by redistricting votes

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State Sens. Joseph A. Griffo, Patricia A. Ritchie, and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell voted in the early hours of Thursday morning for a redistricting package that split St. Lawrence County into four Assembly districts and three Senate districts.

St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, did not mince words about her reaction.

“I'm certainly disgusted. To me, it was almost embarrassing,” she said. “To divide this rural county into four districts, it will be very difficult for any candidate to care about our opinions. We will be dismissed.”

Both Democratic and Republican local representatives pleaded with a state task force at a hearing in Syracuse not to adopt the plan, sending a message that neither party thought the divisions were in the best interest of the county but to no avail.

“We're stuck with it for 10 years,” Mrs. Brothers said. “Deals are cut and we aren't part of it. I don't know what they were. Nobody will ever admit it happened. We have been left behind by our representatives. For whatever reason, we don't carry a lot of political weight. We end up being the sacrificial lamb.”

Echoing the sentiments of the legislative panel that drew the lines, Mrs. Russell said that there wasn't much that could be done because of demographic restrictions.

"Without being able to deviate from certain areas, this was the unfortunate byproduct of restrictions on some deviations within the process," she said.

She pledged to keep a strong focus on St. Lawrence County — her district didn't change much there.

"St. Lawrence County will continue to have strong voice in the majority," she said.

Mrs. Ritchie said that she'll continue to work for the county's interests, noting that she hails from Lisbon and was a county clerk for about a decade.

"In a way, St. Lawrence County is going to benefit," Mrs. Ritchie said. "If an issue comes up, instead of having one senator, there’s going to be three of us."

County officials don't think it's a good thing; the three senators whose districts spread into more populous areas won't have St. Lawrence County as a majority of their population, possibly diminishing the lawmakers' focus on the county.

"I would be of different mind on that also," Mrs. Ritchie said. "Every day, my office in Ogdensburg gets calls from all over the county. I think a lot of that is because they’re familiar with me."

Mr. Griffo has yet to respond to numerous requests for comment.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, spoke on the Assembly floor against the redistricting package because, he said, it would harm St. Lawrence County residents. He voted against it.

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