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Democrats still unhappy with Republican-drawn redistricting maps

Onondaga County Legislature
The Onondaga County Legislature will vote on one of these three reapportionment proposals at its meeting Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Before legal action can happen, the county first has to approve a map. The legislature is set to vote on the three proposed maps at their meeting today, following a public hearing.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon vetoed the originally proposed legislative redistricting map most notably for the over 20% drop in Black voters in the 16th District.

Now, after county Republicans redrew the maps to fix this, the district’s legislator–Vernon Williams Jr.–said it’s still not good enough.

“They have no clue how to draw their maps, they have no clue about the law,” he said. “They don't know what they're doing.”

He said that instead of a 22% drop in Black voters, there’s only roughly an 11% drop from 57% to an average of 46% between the Republicans’ two proposed maps. However, Williams said any drop is too much, considering it’s the only Black-majority district in the county.

“So now that African American vote is now the minority vote, which makes no sense to me,” he said.

County Republicans say that they can’t specifically pack a district with a specific race, but Williams said by intentionally not packing it, they could be in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Packing a particular district, especially with minorities, is what the courts want to do to get them to have their preferred candidate,” said Williams.

In response to what he and his fellow Democrats call “racial gerrymandering”, they drew up their own maps.

“We just didn't want us voting on just their maps,” he said about their decision to create their own map.

On top of that, Williams is echoing many sentiments from county residents and Democrats that the entire reapportionment process has been rushed.

“They're going on the primary that's happening next year, but that primary has nothing to do with these maps,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the county legislature whatsoever.”

In the midst of this process, Governor Kathy Hochul passed a bill that requires counties to follow more statewide redistricting guidelines than previously, opening Onondaga County’s process up to a possible lawsuit by Democrats.

“I encourage my Democratic colleagues to take them to court and do what they have to do to make sure that these maps, you know, don't come to fruition,” said Williams, who is in his final term as a legislator.

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.