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See the newly proposed Onondaga County redistricting maps

(left) Democratic-drawn Onondaga County legislative redistricting map (right) Republican-drawn Onondaga County legislative redistricting map
Onondaga County Reapportionment Commission
(left) Democratic-drawn Onondaga County legislative redistricting map (right) Republican-drawn Onondaga County legislative redistricting map

On Wednesday, Onondaga County’s Reapportionment Commission-a group of six appointed residents tasked with redistricting the county–submitted two proposals for new legislative district maps.

While they were referred to as Drafts 1 and 2, they were submitted by each political party–Draft 1 being the Democratic proposal and Draft 2 being the Republican.

Even with several disagreements about their maps, they actually had a lot of similarities.

Both kept Cicero intact, gave the city of Syracuse six legislative districts, aligned most districts with town borders, and included the Onondaga Nation in the same district as Lafayette because students of the Onondaga Nation attend Lafayette schools.

However, there were many differences as well. While the Republican-drawn map gave Syracuse six districts, those districts extended into the suburbs–increasing their chances of Republican gain of city-encompassed seats.

Their map also prioritized population growth and targeted the four largest-growing towns in the county–Camillus, Clay, Lysander, and Van Buren–by giving them more legislative control. One example of this is the four districts that would cover Clay, one of the largest towns in the county, where the Democratic-drawn map only has three districts there.

The Democratic-drawn map separates the lakeside communities of Liverpool and Geddes, which were previously in one district on the current map and remain that way in the Republican-drawn map.

While Democratic member of the commission, Dustin Czarny, insisted this was in the best interest of those communities, Republicans pushed back saying that Liverpool and Geddes are like-minded communities that should stay together. Their proposed Geddes district also includes Syracuse’s Tipperary Hill, increasing the likelihood that their party would gain control of that district.

Another contentious item on the Democratic-drawn map was District 12, which would encompass Skaneateles, Otisco, Spafford, Lafayette, Pompey, the Onondaga Nation, and Tully. While Czarny insisted that this made sense based on the low population density in those areas, Republican commission member, chairman of the county legislature, and representative of Lafayette, Dave Knapp, said that would “disenfranchise” rural voters.

Knapp, whose family has lived in Lafayette for over 200 years, said the needs of someone in the lakeside community of Skaneateles are not the same as those of a resident in agrarian Lafayette.

While they opened the meeting with promises of civility, it quickly devolved into accusations of gerrymandering and political polarization.

“That map right there? Pure, unadulterated gerrymandering,” said Republican and chair of the commission, Kevin Hulslander, about the Democratic draft.

While Czarny and his fellow Democrats aimed to put an average of 28,000 residents in each legislative district, often drawing lines based on school districts, Hulslander disagreed saying that the county’s charter prioritizes redistricting based only on population growth.

“If you read the charter, that's our job is to look at where the population has grown and make sure that one person, one vote counts,” he said. “And that's what we've done with our map.”

Onondaga County is currently a self-chartered county, meaning it has its own regulations it follows. However, New York Governor Kathy Hochul just recently signed into law a bill that now requires all counties to follow state and federal rules on redistricting.

If those rules aren’t followed in this process, county Democrats will have a leg up if they decide to sue Republicans over this redistricting process, which Czarny and several county residents have criticized as “rushed.”

Despite those promises of a civil conversation, Czarny and Hulslander spent the majority of the hour-long meeting shouting, interrupting and speaking over each other.

“You have yelled, you have waved your finger and you have interrupted me,” Czarny said to Hulslander as they discussed district lines in Dewitt.

After the commission finishes its set of public hearings, which will end this Friday, its members will vote on a final map on November 3.

The final two public hearings are as follows:

5:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 5108 W. Genesee St., Camillus

10 a.m. Oct. 29 at East Syracuse Village Court, 204 N. Center St.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.