CANTON — Population numbers from the 2010 Census won't be out until March, but redrawing legislative districts based on those numbers could be among the St. Lawrence County Legislature's first orders of business after taking office in January.
"We plan on making a presentation next month outlining some of the decisions they're going to have to make," said Keith J. Zimmerman, Planning director.
Mr. Zimmerman predicts that census figures will show the county's population has either shrunk slightly or will have remained stable since the last count in 2000.
"I think we'd be fortunate to have it hold steady," he said. "Our predictions 10 years ago were that the declines we experienced then would continue. I don't see, anecdotally, anything that would change that."
The 2000 Census placed the county's population at 111,931, down from 111,974 in 1990.
Even if the population has not significantly changed, however, the Legislature's 15 districts could, especially if population has shifted from one area to another within the county.
"There are a lot of decisions that go into redistricting," Mr. Zimmerman said. "The first is how many representatives we want the future board to have. After that, there are a whole lot of rules that govern how you split up political geography."
Population cannot deviate among districts by more than 16 percent per a 1973 Supreme Court ruling, but other courts have ruled population among districts should differ by no more than 10 percent.
Mr. Zimmerman said the Legislature could choose to exclude certain populations, like prison inmates, when redrawing district lines. Past Legislatures have also mulled whether to include college students who do not live in the county year-round.
"There are a lot of interesting questions you get into when deciding who to count," he said. "We'll certainly research those questions. Even though prisoners do not use the same services everybody else does, they create employment and visit our doctors in emergency rooms."