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Onondaga County's Redistricting Process Goes Back to Lawmakers To Correct "Mistakes"

redist knapp signing.jpg
Scott Willis
Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp signs off on the redrawn district map Nov. 3 as part of the reapportionment commission. Lawmakers approved it the following week by a narrow 9-8 vote. Now they'll will get back to work making some revisions.

Onondaga County’s redistricting process is now back in the hands of county lawmakers after the county executive vetoed the maps they approved a little over a week ago. Ryan McMahon expressed after a public hearing last week that he had concerns about how the proposed map diluted the African American population in the current 16th district. Several speakers also complained. McMahon says the configuration likely would have invited litigation.

"When we looked at the data and what was the south side district, the African American community would not be in the majority. Even though that's not how you're supposed to draw these districts, it was a change that concerned me. I spoke to the current legislator, the legislator elect, Chairman Knapp, Majority Leader May, and Minority Leader Ervin, and they're all on board to try and correct that issue."

McMahon says there was also a misunderstanding about a state law signed mid-way into the county’s process about the population deviation in each district. He says sending it back to lawmakers for adjustments ensures they’re following the law.

"You're working off one set of laws that our legal team was very familiar with. I would say the game changer was the state law that got signed. The lawyers were a little bit more uncomfortable because it's never been tested. There's no case law related to it.

McMahon declined to connect any of the mistakes to the rushed process, instead saying the new state law is forcing the changes.

"Communicating with some of the other counties and their interpretation brought pause that this could be an issue. Going back and making some tweaks to make the districts more compact can't hurt either. There's no point in putting out stuff with inflated legal risk when you can go back, tweak some things, and have a sounder product."

Democrats in and out of the legislature have warned the GOP about all of this since the maps were unveiled by the reapportionment commission a few weeks ago. For their part, the legislature’s republican caucus says in a release that it’s thankful the error was identified, and are glad to have the opportunity to correct it. The caucus says it’s committed to getting the reapportionment process right for the citizens of the county.