Onondaga County Redistricting Commissioners Present Draft Maps; Accusations Of Gerrymandering Ensue
Onondaga County’s republican and democratic redistricting commissioners presented their respective draft maps Wednesday, and it probably comes as no surprise there were accusations on both sides of gerrymandering and disenfranchisement. The contentious meeting might leave the public wondering if any agreement can be reached.
The hour-long back-and-forth features many areas of disagreement, but it boiled down to two main points. Commission Chair Kevin Hulslander says the GOP maps are fair and reasonable because they take into account growing towns like Lysander, Clay, Camillus, and VanBuren.
"We're establishing seven districts in the towns where the growth is to accommodate for the growth. Map number one includes only five districts. So, at the very core of what our job is here, map number one fails."
Democratic Redistricting and Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny says the GOP faction has compounded the level of gerrymandering from the current district map.
"Where the problem comes in is what they do to Camillus, Salina, Geddes, and DeWitt., towns that just happen to have a democratic plurality. Those are the ones that get chewed up to pieces."
He says the GOP splits Salina into three districts, Camillus into 3, DeWitt into 4, and Geddes into 3, when each town could be placed in is own district.
Czarny says the democrat’s map does take into account growth, but also uses school district boundaries and natural town and ward lines to help create contiguous, like-minded districts. But Kevin Hulslander says otherwise, and it became one of many instances where the lawyer raised his voice and treated the meeting more like a court proceeding.
"See what you did to the people of Minoa?" he asked Czarny. "You're disenfranchising the people that live there."
Czarny replied, "Mr. Hulsander, I thought you said we were going to be civil to each other today. Do you have to wag your finger at me, Mr. Hulslander?"
Hulslander brought up another point of contention:
"Are you trying to tell people here that Skaneateles is like LaFayette? Is that what you're trying to tell people, Dustin? Yes or no?"
"Mr. Hulslander. Would you act in a reasonable manner, please?" Czarny responded.
Hulslander then summed up his perspective on the democrat's draft maps:
"That map right there: Pure, unadulterated gerrymandering! That's what it is." he said in a raised voice to chuckles in the chambers.
"Sure, sir. Sure. I see your map, and we'll get to that in a second," Czarny replied.
The two maps do share similarities, mainly in the northern suburbs. But just about every other part of the county remains up for debate. Changes to the maps are likely, based on feedback from public hearings, and maybe from a new state law.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed a measure Wednesday that makes reapportionment commissioners subject to state and federal constitutional requirements ensuring fairness and equity, regardless of any local law to the contrary. In a release, she says county governments have too often attempted to manipulate redistricting for the political advantage of the party in power. In the case of Onondaga County since 1980, it's been the republicans. Hochul says the law would ensure an end to the practice and promote the non-partisan drawing of lines.
- Districts are as nearly equal in population as is practicable;
- Districts are not drawn with the intent or result of denying equal opportunity of racial or language minority groups to participate in the political process;
- Districts consist of contiguous territory;
- Districts are not drawn to favor incumbents or any particular party or candidate; and
- Form to promote orderly and efficient administration of elections.
The next public hearing takes place Thursday in Camillus at St. Michael’s Church on West Genesee Street at 5:30. Another one will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at East Syracuse Village Court.