Theories about what area of upstate New York will lose representation in Congress are purely speculative, state officials continue to say, as time runs short to redraw maps with new elective districts.

This is an optimistic forecast for Greene and Columbia counties until you hear what the New York Public Interest Research Group has to say on the subject.

New York will lose one seat in the state’s congressional delegation, bringing the total to 26 seats in the House of Representatives. One seat in the state Senate will also likely disappear for upstate communities. It’s no surprise to learn upstate New York is expected to suffer the loss based on population shifts identified in the most recent U.S. Census data, according to a NYPIRG study.

“It’s probably a safe bet that upstate outside the Hudson Valley is going to lose political clout,” NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner said last week. “They have fewer people, and if you believe in representative democracy, that should be the case that areas with more population growth have an advantage.”

Why it’s such manifest destiny for upstate New York to be at a political disadvantage is a function of a population that is exiting the area for lower taxes and greener pastures.

The state’s overall population swelled more than 4% in the last decade, but the population gains are concentrated downstate and New York City’s metropolitan area. More than half of the state saw modest population losses with declines in 39 of New York’s 62 counties, amassing to a total net loss of more than 5,000 residents — the size of a small city in some cases — throughout upstate from 2010 to 2020.

The population data reflect a continuing shift from upstate to downstate in terms of political power as the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission analyzes data to develop the new Congressional, Senate and Assembly political boundaries.

Theoretically, anything is possible, so it is becoming a gilt-edged priority for the commission to be fair and forthright when drawing new boundaries. Because one thing is certain: We can’t afford to lose political power when and where we need it the most.

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