Democrats in Onondaga County May Get Help With Redistribution

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When it comes to redistribution, not all counties in New York State are created equal.

Some counties are “approved” and therefore do not have to follow the redistribution standards described in the Municipal Self-Government Act (MHRL). The practical result of this is that the governing party of a charter county can pretty much draw the lines as they see fit.

State Assembly Member Amy Paulin, who represents Scarsdale in Westchester County, has been battling this peculiarity since the early 1990s, when she headed that community’s chapter of the League of Women Voters.

“What we saw in Westchester was that Scarsdale was, and still is, a very democratic town. The county board at the time was Republican and the way they thought they were going to retain their majority was basically to divide my small town, ”she told Capital tonight in September.

Paulin’s fight went to the Court of Appeal, where she lost.

“We learned that because Westchester was a charter county, it didn’t have to follow the entire Municipal Self-Government Act, which set the standards – one of which was that you had to respect the boundaries. municipal, ”said Paulin.

In 2021, Paulin and another Hudson Valley lawmaker, State Senator James Skoufis, sponsored a bill A.229c / S.5160b that updates the provisions of the law on municipal autonomy (MHRL).

The bill was passed. It was sent to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office last Friday.

Hochul now has 10 days to sign the bill (except Sunday), which means she is expected to sign the law by November 3.

If signed, it will take effect immediately.

In Onondaga County, where the current round of redistribution has caused uproar, this could have far-reaching implications.

Like Westchester, Onondaga County is self-chartered. The Republican-led Onondaga County legislature has been tasked with mapping out several rounds of redistribution. Unsurprisingly, minority Democrats have been shouting loudly “gerrymander” since at least 2010.

Additionally, this year Democrats allege Republicans are “rushing” into the redistribution process, which is not due to be completed until February.

“They’re doing everything out of order, faster than they should have,” said Dustin Czarny, commissioner of the Onondaga County Democratic Council of Elections, who also sits on the county carving commission. “We have three months to do it and they compact it in 21 days. “

Republicans deny that they are acting particularly fast.

“We are not rushing. We never rushed, ”retorted Kevin Hulslander, Republican commissioner for division of Onondaga County and lawyer. “If you look at other districts in other counties, for example Niagara County, Erie County, Monroe County, they followed the same timeline that we took when it comes to the public hearings. and the commission hearings. “

True or not, if Governor Hochul signs the Paulin / Skoufis bill, Democrats will have an immediate legal foothold with which to sue Republicans on their cards.

“We will have to see which cards are ultimately adopted by this commission. But I know there is a lot of fervor around the old maps. We believe that if this legislation had been in place 10 years ago, we certainly would have sued those old cards, ”Czarny said. Capital tonight. “If the Republican majority passes legislation that once again divides our community, and passes it in a lame duck session of the county legislature, yes, we will be looking at all possible avenues to fight this. . “

Indeed, the already busy redistribution debate takes place in the middle of an election season in which all legislative seats in Onondaga County are running for re-election.

But lawyer Kevin Hulslander doesn’t think the governor will sign the bill.

“There has been a lot of talk about this,” Hulslander said. “Believe me, if [Hochul] wanted it to be the law, she would have signed it.

According to the Hochul administration, the governor is currently reviewing the legislation.


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