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Along party lines, Onondaga County Legislature passes redistricting commission

The Onondaga County Legislature.
Ellen Abbott
The Onondaga County Legislature.

A commission to determine the district lines of the Onondaga County Legislature will be formed by the end of the week. The deadline was approved along party lines, with Republicans all voting for it and Democrats voting against it. Democrats say Republicans are rushing the process before the end of the year, because they’re afraid they’ll lose their majority and advantage over redrawing the lines.

The commission will be made up of the county’s two elections commissioners (one Democrat, one Republican) and appointments made by the county executive, Legislature chairman, and majority leader, all Republicans, and the Democratic minority leader. That means Republicans would have four appointees and Democrats only two. All the legislators are up for election in November and Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said the only reason this is happening now is so the GOP can pass partisan maps before the end of the year.

“Because if Democrats take control of the Legislature, then we must have true bipartisan maps because the redistricting commission will be 3-3,” Czarny said.

Onondaga County Legislature
A selection of the county Legislature district lines for the city of Syracuse and surrounding suburbs.

Czarny said they don’t have to legally change anything until 2023. But Chairman Dave Knapp said the clock is ticking since the Legislature received the 2020 census data and this just starts the process of redistricting. He doesn’t expect any big changes to the maps. The county’s population has increased by 2% in 10 years.

“We are not going to be making wholesale changes,” Knapp said. “The redistricting rules don’t want you to make huge changes. They want you to make corrections that we’ve seen over the past 10 years of experience that make the districts make more sense. This will be done very surgically.”

But that’s been the criticism over the years, that the districts have been gerrymandered and communities in the city of Syracuse and suburbs were broken up to give one party an advantage. View the district map here.

On Tuesday, Republicans did vote to add a total of six public hearings to the process. The commission will meet next week. The Legislature will have to approve the new map once it is drawn.

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.