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Onondaga County Elections Commissioners weigh in on new congressional and state legislative districts

proposed congressional map.jpg
latfor.state.ny.us
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This is the proposed congressional map.

It’s probably no surprise that Onondaga County’s two elections commissioners have different opinions about the new state redistricting maps approved Wednesday by lawmakers.    The governor is expected to sign them into law by week’s end.

Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, and largely drew the congressional, state senate and assembly district lines that they voted on. Democratic elections commissioner Dustin Czarny says the new 22nd district contains Onondaga County and parts of six others.

"I best describe it as a central city district the cities of Syracuse, Auburn, Geneva, Oneida, Ithaca, and Cortland are all inside this district now. I think that's why it was created. It's pretty compact."

He says it’s probably more suited for democrats than the current 24th district. It’s for this reason that GOP elections commissioner Michele Sardo says republicans are prepared to litigate.

"There's a nationwide group called the National Republican Redistricting Trust I'm hearing that's going to go to court nationwide. They'll go to state court first. Then they'll fight in federal court, which takes a little longer, and have them redraw the lines to make them a little bit more fair."

The state’s process started with a bi-partisan commission approved by voters in 2014. But the job was handed to lawmakers after it failed to agree on a single set of maps. Czarny says the commission couldn’t be called independent.

"The word 'independent' was not part of the ballot proposal because of a court ruling that it was not independent. It is actually a selection of political appointees. That commission was designed to fail. It was set up to avoid a truly independent citizen-led redistricting commission."

Meanwhile, the partisan sniping continues, with Republicans accusing democrats of gerrymandering the state maps to benefit themselves. Commissioner Sardo says it’s not fair either way.

"They [democrats] call us out when the maps were drawn for the [Onondaga] County legislature. This is going the same way that they [democrats] claimed we [republicans] had done it when we drew the maps. They need to look at the big picture. You're talking about the whole state of New York, not just one county."

If the governor signs the maps into law, the commissioners and their staffs will be busy creating new election districts and notifying voters about the new congressional and state legislative districts.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.