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Onondaga County Legislature rejects independent commission to study redistricting

Onondaga County Legislature
The county legislature districts within the city of the Syracuse.

A resolution to form an independent commission to make recommendations on how to redraw the Onondaga County Legislature districts, was defeated last week. But there may be other plans to open up the process.

Democratic Legislator Christopher Ryan said his proposed commission was meant to create more equitable districts to better represent county residents. 

“Our finished product, when we redid the legislative districts almost a decade ago, was seriously flawed, and probably should have been challenged legally,” Ryan said. "We should lean on our community leaders, our civic groups, academia and people who do this type of thing, and consult with them, so we can put forth a better product."  

The lines were drawn to fit more than 27,000 people in a district.

View the Onondaga County Legislature districts map.

But the result is a hodgepodge of meandering lines, dividing up the city of Syracuse into nine out of 17 county districts, located completely or partly within the city. Republicans hold a 12 to five advantage in the legislature, despite there being more registered Democrats in the county.

Ryan's resolution, supported by legislature Democrats, was voted down by Republicans.

"We just felt it was adding another bureaucratic commission that really didn't have any teeth, to advise a commission that is already in place," Chairman David Knapp said. "In this really highly charged political environment we're in, finding nonpartisan groups is pretty tough these days."

Knapp said they’re looking at opening up the redistricting process in the next few months with possibly a public meeting. A commission, laid out in the charter, will be assembled after the 2020 census.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.