Minority Caucus seeks redistricting amendment to county charter

Minority Caucus seeks redistricting amendment to county charter
Officials from the Minority Caucus proposed an amendment to the county charter last week. (Photo by Noah Manksar)

Officials from the Nassau County Legislature’s Minority Caucus are pushing for an amendment aimed at making the deadline to adopt district lines two months earlier than now planned. 

A release from the Minority Caucus Aug. 19 said the county charter and state election law require candidates running for office to collect petition signatures prior to the Legislature’s adoption of new district lines. The proposed amendment would make the Legislature adopt the new lines by Jan. 9, 2023, rather than March 7, 2023.

In 2019, New York shifted to consolidated primary elections to be held in June.

County-level primaries throughout the state were held in September prior to the change three years ago. The county’s deadlines were not updated following the changes, so the petitioning process remained the same under the previous election cycle.

Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) was forced to suspend her congressional campaign because of newly drawn lines adopted by the state following her gathering petition signatures to appear on the ballot.

On May 20, newly drawn congressional maps were approved by a State Supreme Court judge. The maps were submitted by a court-appointed “special master” and have been viewed as more neutral compared to ones that were rejected by a state appeals court several weeks prior.

“In the interest of ensuring that we eliminate confusion for the residents of our county, we believe that we need to address a conflict that has materialized as a result of the New York State amendment and change to the election process that now allows for the June primary,” Bynoe said in an interview.

Bynoe said the amendment would also help pave the way for an “orderly and transparent process” and so constituents can know exactly who their representatives and candidates are.

Both Bynoe and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Republican legislators have not shown a shared sense of concern about this proposed amendment. The release claimed Republicans this year have been seeking to “run out the clock” and be forced to approve gerrymandered legislative districts.

“Nassau County residents deserve a fair, orderly and transparent redistricting process that respects their feedback and input, and we must swiftly correct this conflict if we are to meet that standard,” Abrahams said in a statement. “It is time for our counterparts to begin treating this process with the seriousness and urgency that it deserves.”

The redistricting process occurs across the country every 10 years following the release of U.S. census data. Prior to the data being released this year, Abrahams led the charge in trying to have the county Legislature adopt an independent redistricting committee to keep a majority of the power from one party.

In 2013, the Republican majority’s proposed district map was approved by a 10-9 vote.

As of now, redistricting is delegated to an 11-member board made up of five voting members from each party, with the last member being a nonvoting chairperson picked by the county executive. Republicans currently hold an 11-8 majority in the county Legislature. The committee, Abrahams said, would preserve the boundaries of cities, towns and incorporated villages.

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