GOP Onondaga County Lawmakers Defeat "Non-Partisan" Redistricting Process
Onondaga County lawmakers defeated a measure Tuesday aimed at what advocates say would ensure a non-partisan, objective, independent process to redrawing district lines. The vote was 11 to 6 along party lines, with Republicans voting it down and accusing democrats of using redistricting as a ploy to gain a majority.
Legislature chairman Dave Knapp opened his remarks with this:
"I have to say this is the most political attempt at being non-political that I've seen in my 10 years on the legislature."
He then spent the next 10 minutes discrediting the proposal, from its cost and legality, to whether it’s truly a fair way to redraw districts.
"This commission's finding automatically becomes law. We cannot change it. The county executive cannot change it. Some people say that's good. Some people say that's bad. The citizens have no recourse on this."
Several speakers addressed lawmakers, all in favor of the measure, including Mark Matt. He accused Republicans of mischaracterizing the measure in front of them, and not having another plan.
"Some of you say 'I support this idea, but not this one.' Where are your proposals? What have you done? Some of you say 'it's too expensive.' Remember, our county charter demands a redistricting process after a census, with the county paying the cost for a good choice or a bad choice."
Minority leader Linda Ervin scolded her fellow lawmakers for not offering any feedback on fellow democrat Chris Ryan’s proposal, which he first introduced last year based loosely on similar measures in Austin, Texas and San Diego, California.
"It's not overnight that you saw this. It's not last week that you saw this. You've had this long enough to make some changes. He expressed to you on several occasions to make changes that you think needed to be made. None were forthcoming. None. He received no word from anybody. He actually followed up with some of you to ask if you had any changes. He got no response."
Perrine Wasser has been pushing lawmakers to commit to an independent redistricting process. Fifteen of the 17 lawmakers signed her "Fair Maps" pledge to do just that. Speaker after speaker called out lawmakers for not keeping their word. Legislators, in turn, argued they didn't commit to this specific proposal. Wasser told them:
"If you don't support this, where is your proposal? What are your reasons? Why aren't you communicating the concerns you have? We are open to a conversation to discuss changes or alternatives. We just want fair districts."
Republican lawmakers say they’ll present their own reapportionment proposal at the Ways and Means committee late next week.