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Syracuse's Independent Redistricting Commission will draft multiple maps this month

Syracuse City Hall. 2/14/22. (Photos by Max Mimaroglu)
Max Mimaroglu
Max Mimaroglu for WAER
Syracuse City Hall. 2/14/22. (Photos by Max Mimaroglu)

The beginning of May marked a countdown to the reveal of the newly proposed Syracuse Common Council districts. The Syracuse City Redistricting Commission planned to share multiple drafts later this month.

Commission Chair Molly Lizzio said community members have urged the group not to split neighborhoods across different districts, but the challenge is balancing that with what federal, state, and local laws require.

"You certainly cannot make it difficult for minority voting blocks, you're not splitting them up, you're not affecting. So some of that voting rights stuff, you have to look at and make sure that your communities are protected,” she said. “Also, in terms of the shapes of the district, they have to be compact and not misshapen. And you have to be able to kind of walk from one side to the other without leaving the district."

A recurring theme was the implementation of majority-minority districts. Several attendees expressed having some majority-minority districts as a priority. Multiple attendees also emphasized the importance of increasing the representation of racial minorities.

Other concerns raised at the meeting include: asking the commission to use different shapes when drawing maps, thinking about how identities of neighborhoods are constructed, and how district rebuilding can help communities, especially communities with concentrated poverty.

The Syracuse Common Council does not have the authority to draw map lines. That authority belongs to the Syracuse Independent Redistricting Commission. All the Common Council can do is vote yes or no to the map lines proposed. If the Common Council votes no on the proposed map lines, it comes right back to the commission.

Committee member Jason Belge said he hopes this first release will drive more public engagement to help the commission develop the best possible version in the end.

But once they see that, hey, my neighborhood and shouldn't be with that neighborhood. I'm going to start coming up to the meetings. And that's what we want.

The group plans to release drafts on May 22 at the Westcott Community Center. The Common Council will then vote on a final version.

Matt Fairfax is an undergraduate student studying Broadcast & Digital Journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May 2023.