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This semester, 11 students will create a proposal on how to redesign the congressional districts of New York State, possibly reshaping state policy for the next decade.

The course, MAX 300 at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, was never offered at SU until this semester. This is one of many student-led groups across the state who will compete to have their proposal submitted to New York Law School.

The class meets every two weeks and is led by Timur Hammond, assistant professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment.

“Redistribution is something that I’m definitely not an expert on, but something that I have a professional interest in as well as a personal interest as a person who lives in a democracy,” Hammond said.

Redistribution is something that I am certainly not an expert on. But something in which I have a professional interest as well as a personal interest as a person who lives in a democracy.

Timur Hammond, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography

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Every 10 years, the seats in the house are redistributed to states based on the results of the national census. While redistribution may seem like a straightforward process, the power to redraw districts in a state has become more controversial over the past 30 years, Hammond said.

Gerrymandering It is when a party manipulates the boundaries of an electoral district so that as many seats as possible go to that party.

Hammond, who leads the bi-weekly student group on Zoom, says the process is moving quickly and efficiently, with an emphasis on submitting the best possible plan before the Jan. 15, 2022 deadline.

“The main focus of our conversations has been to learn how to use the software and web-based redistribution tools that allow you to create congressional districts,” said Hammond. “Basically you have to color the map to see how you can group the populations. “

Students came into the classroom with varying expertise in the redistribution process.

“We have students who get together on weekends with their friends on Zoom and actually draw electoral districts in their spare time, and we have students who have come to this with very little experience. So we’re trying to learn by doing, ”Hammond said.

Otto Sutton, a sophomore at Maxwell and a triple major in political science, history and political philosophy, said the class discussed the complications of redistributing New York state districts.

“We talk a lot about how best to represent the electorate. In New York you have very populated cities and also these vast swathes of rural areas like where I’m from. So what’s the right balance in this? Said Sutton. “Is it about assembling the cities on their own or balancing the neighborhood with a city and a large rural area? So it’s a bit difficult.

Once the proposal is submitted to New York Law School, it will compete with other proposals made by students, Hammond said. The winning proposal will be submitted to the New York Independent Redistricting Commission.

The bipartisan commission will officially propose the new map and submit it to the Democratic-led state legislature by January 15, 2022.

“It only happens every 10 years. So it’s really a really unique opportunity that we have here, and we’re extremely lucky to have someone like Professor Hammond, who is just extremely excited to learn the process the way we are ” , said Sutton. “It’s a really cool experience. It’s a really unique process, and it’s really exciting to learn it.

Contact Quinn at: [email protected]


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