Dissatisfied with a pair of plans that would redraw Nassau County’s 19 Legislative districts, a group of good-government organizations has created its own map, which was presented to the County Legislature on Jan. 14.
At a press conference before the meeting, several speakers condemned the plans drawn up by the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission — one by its Republican members and the other by the Democrats. Members of the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition also said that the commission failed in its duty to present a unified, bipartisan plan.
Several organizations joined forces to form the coalition, including Common Cause New York, the Nassau County League of Women Voters, Long Island Civic Engagement Table [which includes Make the Road New York], the New York Civil Liberties Union, Le Fuente Long Island Civic Participation Project and Latino Justice. Members of these organizations had a unified message on Monday, saying that the rights of voters have been ignored.
Barbara Epstein, of the League of Women Voters, said that representatives of her organization have attended every public hearing on redistricting so far and have advocated a fair, transparent and inclusive process. The league has also argued that legislative districts should be compact and contiguous, and keep communities of interest together. “These are all traditional, accepted redistricting values,” Epstein said.
She singled out the plan created by the Advisory Commission Republicans, saying that it fails to meet that criteria.
Brian Paul, of Common Cause New York, said that the coalition’s map was a clear alternative to the partisan and gerrymandered plans presented by the commission’s Republicans and Democrats. The new map, Paul explained, adjusts the existing legislative districts based on population shifts.
“The coalition plan,” he said, “demonstrates that there are no practical obstacles to creating common-sense plans in the best interests of the county and all its residents.”
Paul said that the coalition’s map keeps communities together, like Elmont and the Five Towns, which are split into multiple districts in the Republican plan. He added that the acceptance of either party’s plan would be a recipe for continued dysfunction.
Epstein explained that seven of the current 19 districts needed to be adjusted because they have either too many or too few residents based on 2010 census data. She also said that the new coalition’s map did not take into account where sitting legislators live.
“We urge the Legislature to adopt this map, with modifications if necessary,” she said.
Frederick Brewington, an attorney from Hempstead, said that the map was assembled by organizations that have never worked together before, but all share a common belief in a fair redistricting process. He added that if the Legislature adopts either the Republican or Democratic plan without even considering the coalition’s map, it should expect a court challenge.
Mimi Pierre-Johnson, of Elmont, representing New York Communities for Change, described the plans created by the Republicans and Democrats as a complete waste of taxpayer money. The Temporary Districting Advisory Commission had a budget of about a half-million dollars.
“We will stand together, united, and we will let them know you will not spend our taxpayers’ money to divide us,” Pierre-Johnson said. “Our voices will not be diluted.”
Scottie Coads, the state civic engagement chairwoman for the NAACP and a West Hempstead resident, said she attended the press conference to show her support for a fair redistricting process. She noted the “slicing and dicing” of communities that took place in the two plans released by the commission.
The Legislature has until March 5 to accept a redistricting plan, which would take effect for the November 2013 elections.