Blow to Democracy: Onondaga County Legislature Rejects Independent Commission on Redistricting

425 volunteers made over 37K calls, texts, emails urging lawmakers to pass the commission

NEW YORK, NY (07/09/2020) (readMedia)-- Earlier this week, the Onondaga County Legislature rejected placing a ballot initiative for the November election that would have created an independent redistricting commission to draw election districts for Onondaga County. In a 11 to 6 vote, lawmakers rejected allowing the voters to decide whether to create a 17-member citizens independent commission that would have included a diverse group of residents and safeguards against conflicts of interest.

425 volunteers sent over 37,000 calls, emails and texts to Onondaga County voters urging them to contact their lawmakers about the need for the commission, resulting in a myriad of constituent contacts. Over 1500 Onondaga residents signed a petition in support of the commission as well.

"In a democracy, voters should be choosing politicians, not the other way around," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "The Onondaga County legislature refused to let voters decide whether to adopt a commission that would have put power back in the hands of voters. It's a huge loss for democracy and even more for Onondaga voters. There is clear grassroots support to end gerrymandering, and we're looking forward to continuing our work towards that goal."

14 out of the 17 members of the Onondaga County Legislature pledged to support fair redistricting. The members who signed the pledge are: Brian May, James Rowley, Timothy Burtis, Judith Tassone, Deb Cody, Julie Abbott-Kenan, Mary Kuhn, Chris Ryan, Peggy Chase, Kevin Holmquist, John McBride, David Knapp, Bill Kinne, and Linda Ervin. Only six of them ended up voting for the bill.

The 11 legislators who voted against the bill were: Brian May, James Rowley, Timothy Burtis, David Knapp, Judith Tassone, Ken Bush jr, Deb Cody, Casey Jordan, Julie Abbott-Kenan, Kevin Holmquist and John McBride.

Last year, voters in Syracuse overwhelmingly voted to pass the creation of an independent redistricting commission.