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ELECTIONS

What will happen with Cayuga County in congressional redistricting?

Cayuga

A map of New York, with Cayuga County highlighted in red. 

When the New York Independent Redistricting Commission releases its draft map on Wednesday, we'll get the first look at the potential congressional district lines for the 2022 election and beyond. 

Locally, a big question is what will happen with Cayuga County in congressional redistricting. 

After the 2010 census, all of Cayuga County was placed in the existing 24th Congressional District. Keeping the county whole has its benefits. One of the obvious benefits: It has one representative in the House. 

While Cayuga lucked out over the past several years, it hasn't always been this way. For the previous decade (2003-13), the county was split into two congressional districts. Auburn and most towns were in the old 24th district, which included parts of central New York and the Mohawk Valley (Utica). The northern towns were in the 25th Congressional District, which included all of Onondaga and Wayne counties, plus a portion of eastern Monroe. 

From 1993 to 2003, the county was divided into three congressional districts. One of the districts, the 31st, included part of Auburn and the southern towns in Cayuga County. It extended west to Lake Erie and south to the Pennsylvania line. 

Another district, the 27th, stretched from the Buffalo suburbs in western New York to the town of Aurelius and a portion of Auburn in Cayuga County. 

The 25th district at the time included part of Auburn and 11 towns in Cayuga County. This district was more compact and included all of Onondaga and Cortland counties, plus parts of Broome and Tioga counties. 

For this round of redistricting, Cayuga County could be split up into two or three congressional districts. It's possible that part of the county will remain with Onondaga — that has been the case with each of the last three maps. But where will the rest end up? There are a few possibilities. 

Northern Cayuga County, especially the towns of Sterling, Victory, Ira, Conquest and Cato, could wind up in a separate district. One hypothetical map that's been shared on social media shows a district that would stretch from western Onondaga through the northern portion of Cayuga. All of Wayne County would be in the district, plus some Rochester suburbs and towns in Monroe County. 

Politically, such a district would be up for grabs. It wouldn't be a safe seat for either party. While there are some safe areas for Republicans, Democrats would likely have the enrollment advantage. 

The rest of Cayuga County, namely Auburn, would be part of a new district that includes Syracuse, Utica and Ithaca. This would be a safe Democratic seat. Any Republican would be a longshot to win in such a district. 

Regarding the latter, it's unlikely that the redistricting commission would draw such a map. The areas in that hypothetical deep blue district are now part of the 22nd district represented by Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, a conservative Republican. With New York losing a House seat, that district is expected to change. But will the commission push it from the red district it is now to a safe Democratic seat? That's probably not going to happen. 

Among the guiding principles for the redistricting commission is that "each district shall consist of contiguous territory, and each district shall be as compact in form as practicable." It's possible that Cayuga will be kept whole in a draft map. There is a good case to make that it belongs in a district with at least part of Onondaga, its neighboring county to the east. But as history suggests, it's more likely that it will be split, possibly into multiple districts. 

Whatever happens, this won't be the end of the process. The commission will hold hearings across the state for the public to review and comment on the draft map. Once it has gathered that feedback, the commission will finalize its proposal before submitting it to the state Legislature for consideration. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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