There is a unique opportunity this month for Syracuse residents to take part in a fair and open process that puts redistricting in the voters hands. It's also the first time the city has redrawn its lines in 20 years. Members of the independent redistricting commission - not elected or government officials - will determine the areas City Councilors represent. Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny is optimistic about the outcome.
“I think you’re going to see some maps come out of this that make sense to the people, and will have more competition because of that, and a greater connection to our government.”
He says compared to the commission at the county level, districts drawn by the people is the way to do it. Czarny says the whole progess is very transparentl there will be five open meetings even before a plan is drafted, followed by another five to gather public feedback. After the commission has drawn up a final plan, he says there will be two hearings.
“A line being drawn doesn’t make sense and carves up a community that perhaps the commissioner said no about, but the people on the ground did. There will be plenty of opportunities for input.”
This type of reform is modeled after an independent redistricting done in Austin, Texas ten years ago, and is the first of its kind east of the Mississippi. Czarny hopes for a positive response in Syracuse as well.
“Looking at where this has been implemented in the past, and other places in the country, what has come out of the process has been extremely popular and extremely well received by the people that were involved with it, and the people that were running for office as well.”
The application process is open on the Syracuse City Auditor’s website, and the public can even see who has already applied. Of the 50 people so far as (as of Mar. 15), most are white males. Eligible applicants must have an active voter registration for the past five years and participated in at least three out of the last five city elections. The auditor will choose the first eight commissioners at random from the pool of applicants; from there, those eight will select the remaining seven for a total of 15 commissioners. Czarny feels it will ensure the group is both geographically and demographically diverse.
Use this link to apply. The deadline is March 31.