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One of the basic principles of representative democracy is that the closer an elected officials is to constituents, the better they will be represented. Unfortunately, in many Long Island towns most people are more likely to know their County Legislator, State Assemblyperson, or even their State Senator, than any of their Town Board members. This is due, in large part, to the old, outdated "at large" method of electing Town Boards.

In an at-large system, rather than each board member representing his or her neighbors in a specific district, all are elected in town-wide, multi-seat elections. The result has been overdevelopment, congested roads, and unresponsive town government.

The Neighborhood Network advocates Council Districts (also known as the ward system) for Long Island Towns, as an important fundamental reform of town government. In a Council District system, each town council member represents a specific geographic area of the town, and they are elected in single-seat, head-to-head elections. This is the same way County Legislators, State Assemblymembers, State Senators, and U.S. Representatives are elected. This system makes town council members more accountable and more responsive to voters.

Under "At Large" Elections No Town Board Member is Responsible to Your Community

  • Your community could have no board members who even live anywhere near it.
  • The Town Board can safely pass measures that are unpopular in, or detrimental to your community, because they can all make up any lost votes in other areas of the town.
  • Because elections are slates and not head-to-head competitions, a challenger can not run against an incumbent's record, and you can not directly vote against someone with whom you disagree.
  • The cost of running town-wide campaigns increases the influence of big money on local politics.
  • People do not get to know their board members as well as if a single member represented them.
  • Your vote does not carry the most weight at the local level, it is diluted by the whole town's population.

Board members that are distant from and unknown to the voters, and who are dependent on expensive campaigns to get re-elected, are more responsive to big money contributors and political machines than they are to constituents.  

Town-wide "at-large" elections means that your vote carries less weight in town-wide elections. Your individual vote is less important to a council member who is elected town-wide, than to one who represents you and your community in a limited geographic district.

Voting by districts does not increase the number of board members or the size of town government. It does ensure that you and your community have a board member who is directly responsible to you.

Electing Town Board Members from small districts opens the process up to independents, community-based candidates, and independent-thinking major party candidates who want to run primary challenges.

To find out more about council districts call:

the Neighborhood Network: 631-963-5454

Neighborhood Network
7180 Republic Airport, East Farmingdale, NY 11735 Tel: (631) 963-5454
Advocates for Long Island's Environment