Continued calls for transparency in Nassau County’s redistricting process

Continued calls for transparency in Nassau County’s redistricting process
Discussions surrounding transparency throughout Nassau County's redistricting process persist. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Democratic officials on Nassau County’s Temporary Districting Advisory Commission have continued criticizing their Republican counterparts for a lack of transparency during their redistricting process.

But Chairperson Francis Moroney, a Republican appointee, said the comments made by the Democratic delegation “paint a dark picture” of the process and that the Republican members of the commission are equally willing to work to create maps that do not favor one party.

“This is an honest process,” he said. “I think every one of these people on the Democratic side are good, solid citizens, but they have got to sticks to the facts. I think everybody over here is a good, solid citizen and they will be sure to stick to the facts.”

Jared Kasschau, a member of the Democratic delegation, said the Republicans have been asked multiple times to provide information on the redistricting process online, but have not done so.

Kasschau announced, that a shared drive online can be accessed by residents looking for more information and proposed maps that have been submitted.

“It’s essential to meaningful public participation and there is no reason why this information has not been posted to the county’s website,” Kasschau said.

Fellow Democratic delegation member Michael Pernick echoed Kasschau’s comments and said there have been public comments submitted dated upwards of 20 days prior to the meeting that had not been addressed by members of the commission.

Pernick asked for an email address to be set up where the public could submit their comments and have them be accessible for viewing by the entire commission.

David Mejias, a former Democratic legislator who served from 2003 to 2010 representing the 14th District in Farmingdale, said at a previous meeting the public has been purposefully excluded from the process thus far.

Mejias said the redistricting commission failed to properly provide meeting dates, times and agendas, relevant laws and statutes and a dedicated email address for public comments in a timely manner. 

“Maybe that’s the difference between the 120 people we had in the last meeting and the number of people we had in the room here today,” Mejias said at an early September meeting held in North Hempstead. “Which is far less than 120 people that we had at our last so nothing has been changed.”

​​The five majority appointees include Peter Bee, John Reinhardt, Maureen Fitzgerald, New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane and Eric Mallette. 

Minority appointees include Mejias, Kasschau, Pernick, Andrena Wyatt and James Magin. 

Pernick referred to a comparative analysis of the county’s current legislative maps conducted by Daniel Magleby, a political science professor at Binghamton University. Magleby, Pernick said, used a particular methodology for assessing maps by generating thousands of random legislative maps and measuring the current one to those that were technologically generated.

The 10,000 random neutral maps that were generated and analyzed against the county’s current legislative map proved that the current map is more biased toward Republican candidates. Pernick described the results as an “extreme partisan gerrymander” and said the county cannot continue to use the maps currently in place.

“We need to start from scratch and draw a map that’s legal from the ground up,” Pernick said.

Moroney, following Pernick’s explanation of the analysis, said no legislative map since 1984 has been successfully challenged.

Every 10 years, the county participates in the redistricting process to revise districts to ensure none contain a substantially disproportionate difference in the voter population compared to other districts.

As it stands, Nassau County currently has 19 Legislative Districts where Republicans hold an 11-8 majority over Democrats. 

Of the 19 districts, at least two are minority-majority districts, which was a point of concern to keep together.

In 2014, Republicans held a 10-9 advantage when the current district maps were voted on party lines. At the time, Democrats had a 20,382 advantage among registered voters – 344,078 to 323,696.

The commission has a deadline of Nov. 10 to submit recommendations to the county legislature before they are considered and could be accepted, rejected or amended, among other things.

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