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Ballot proposal divides Town of Manlius

A one story brick building with a small atrium inside the entrance.
Town of Manlius
via twitter
The Town of Manlius town hall.

Residents in the Town of Manlius will decide Saturday whether to make a major change in how town councilors are elected. It’s an issue that’s divided the town and raised questions about electoral politics. Currently, each of the six councilors serves the entire town. But a ballot measure brought forward by the town’s Republican Party would institute a ward system, where individual councilors represent certain parts of the town. Committee Chair Tim Kelly says some residents don’t feel heard.

“When you don't have representation for people on the north side of the town specifically, in over a dozen years, regardless of party, that's an issue.”

Town of Manlius Supervisor John Deer, a Democrat, sees it differently.

“I can't imagine that a ward system where you now have six people who are caring about one-sixth of the town versus six people that are caring about the whole town," Deer said. "I struggle to see how that changes the situation for anybody being represented.”

He says the town’s electorate is divided almost evenly between Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated. Deer says a ward model will lead to fewer options for all voters.

“What happens when you have wards that are now drawn where there is such an imbalance between different parties that it becomes essentially just a primary election," Deer said. "And if no one else wants to represent that area, they have unopposed elections. We had those ten years ago in the Town of Manlius.”

That’s when Republicans controlled town government. Now Democrats do. Tim Kelly with the Manlius GOP says they gathered nearly 900 petition signatures from people in all election districts seeking support for the ward model.

“Overwhelmingly people were in support of it, especially in areas where they feel that the current town board in the way that it's set up, not necessarily the current people, but the way that it's set up, they feel that they don't always have a voice.”

Democrat John Deer disagrees, saying most people they talk to are more concerned about how this proposed major change in town government was rushed to a vote with little discussion. He says it could have easily been scheduled to appear on the general election ballot in November. Instead, voting takes place in a special election Saturday from 9 to 5 at Manlius Town Hall.

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