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Onondaga County Democrats plan to sue over redistricting map

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County Democratic legislator Chris Ryan said he wasn’t surprised when County Executive Ryan McMahon silently passed the new legislative redistricting map on New Year's Eve.

“I completely expected that,” said Ryan. I said ‘sure, it's going to be done without fanfare. So yeah, I that's what I expected to happen.”

The decision came after months of political contention over the redrawing of the districts by a partisan commission and then by the legislature.

While a map was eventually passed, Ryan says the Democratic caucus’ efforts won’t stop. The six Democratic legislators recently announced that they have retained legal counsel and intend to sue the county over the new map.

“We are standing against the maps that we believe were not only created, that they are not only unfair but that we believe that violate state and federal laws,” said Ryan.

Onondaga County Legislature
Map of Onondaga County legislative districts approved by the county legislature

A key point of contention over the county’s reapportionment was how to redraw District 16–the only Black-majority district in the county. While the county executive claims the latest map preserves that majority, Democrats say their concerns about the maps stretch far beyond those in the 16th district.

“This was doomed from this inception,” he said.

Ryan’s talking about the partisan commission that was initially formed in lieu of an independent citizen-led one like what the City of Syracuse is doing.

“We always have to go back to the fundamental difference is that these maps were drawn by political appointees, right,” he said.

During legislative meetings leading up to the passage of the new map, nearly every Democrat stood up against both the map and the process with claims of racial gerrymandering and dismissal of public opinion.

Now, with a recent state law having passed that strengthens legal avenues to push back on local redistricting, the Democrats have a greater chance than ever to reopen the reapportionment conversation.

“What's happening right now is, is it's not fair. It's illegal. And, you know, we intend to take action,” said Ryan.

However, even Ryan admits it’s unclear what that legal action will look like and what will come out of it since this is really uncharted territory for the county.

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.