What you need to know:

NEW YORK (WETM) – The Census Bureau released its new 2020 data on Thursday; giving New York redistricting commissioners the green light to begin drawing their first draft of the new congressional and state assembly maps. Currently, the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes area is all in one congressional district, but that is at risk of being broken up.

“The rural nature of the Southern Tier must be preserved,” said Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

The 23rd Congressional District, namely the Southern Tier and Finger Lake region; stretches across most of the northern border of Pennsylvania. Beginning with Chautauqua County to the west, to Tioga county, over 200 miles away to the east. It is made up of 11 counties, all with populations no more than 135,000, holding cities of 32,000 or less.

The area is rural and sparse. When compared to neighboring regions, this area holds its own unique issues because of this demographic likeness- vastly different to the surrounding districts with densely populated areas and much larger cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.

Agriculture-based economy, small cities, manufacturing, SUNY colleges, and concerns about broadband access, are just a few of the similarities these counties share with each other.

Local officials are worried that the Southern Tier’s district will get broken up and added to surrounding districts. The concern is that community issues in these rural areas will get lost amongst the urban and suburban localities.

Normally, when particular areas are on the edge or take up small a portion of a congressional district, their issues are not a top priority to a representative with bigger cities to worry about.

“The issues that are of concern to the folks in Buffalo, Rochester, or Syracuse will get addressed, but the rural areas will just be a small fraction of that, and won’t get the same attention as it would if a representative is from those smaller communities,” said Joe Sempolinksi, Steuben County Republican Chairman.

Citizens, public officials, professors, Republicans, and Democrats, spoke out at the Central New York/Southern Tier public input session, giving their testimonies as to why the area should retain its rural nature.

“I cannot imagine trying to get the attention of a representative that doesn’t know the inside of the schools or rural hospitals the way that we do,” said Randi Hewit, President of Community Foundation of Elmira Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

One resident from Mayville, NY, which has a population of just under 1,500, says that people in towns like hers rely on the character of this area.

“We do not want to be lumped into a district that does not represent us,” said Karen Engstrom.

Even though the newly released 2020 Census shows a decrease in population in the Southern Tier, local officials say that the population is still enough to justify a congressional district.

The first draft of district lines is set to be released on September 15th. The month following this date will consist of another round of sessions asking for the public’s views on the proposed set of lines from the first draft. After this second take of the public’s input, the commission will modify the maps and submit them to the legislature in January.