Nassau County residents and the Nassau County Democratic Committee filed a lawsuit against Nassau County’s recently redrawn legislative map, citing an alleged illegal partisan advantage for the Republican Party in county Legislature elections.
“This is an illegal map that prevents all voters, especially voters of color, from electing candidates of their choice,” NAACP New York State Conference Civic Engagement Chair H. Scottie Coads said. “This lawsuit is about ensuring everyone’s votes mean something.”
The new Nassau County Legislative District map, which would be in effect for the next 10 years, was approved Feb. 27 by the Republican-controlled Legislature along party lines. The map was presented on Feb. 21 by the majority caucus.
The map set off a firestorm when Democrat Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) criticized the Republican legislators for working in “secrecy” so they could keep their advantage over the next decade.
Abrahams has been placed into a district inhabited by more Republicans than the current 1st District.
Democratic County Legislator Arnold Drucker expressed in a statement his displeasure with the proposal that splits and redraws the lines in Nassau County.
“The current proposal is an extreme partisan gerrymander that carves apart communities across Nassau,” Drucker said. “This is not about the political fate of one person over another – it is much more significant. This is a brazen attempt to dilute and render irrelevant the voices of all Democrats residing in Nassau County and it must not stand.”
Legislator Josh Lafazan will also be pushed into the 16th Legislative District, represented by Drucker, according to the map. Other changes to North Shore areas include the expansion of the 10th District into Munsey Park, Plandome and Plandome Manor.
The lawsuit cites the same grievances Democratic legislators previously expressed, attributing the reason for the suit to a favoring of the Republican Party with the purpose of ensuring a permanent GOP majority through the new district map.
The parties bringing suit say that the new map achieves this Republican advantage by consolidating Democratic voters into two districts and by diluting their vote in three other districts. They say this mainly takes place in communities of color, such as Valley Stream and Lakeview.
“Republican lawmakers drew political maps that provide them personal political advantages while disenfranchising communities of color throughout the county,” Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said. “Every voter is entitled to equal representation under federal and state laws regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, and the Nassau Democratic Committee intends to fight until such representation is achieved.”
The parties bringing forward the lawsuit say that the new county legislative map was compared to 10,000 computer-simulated maps that complied with the New York Municipal Home Rule Law requirements. This was done to determine whether this map was designed impartially.
The comparison between the computer-generated maps and the Nassau County District map showed a 0.1% probability, or less than 1 in 10,000 chance, that it was drawn in a non-partisan manner, according to the parties filing suit.
This is the first lawsuit brought forward in the county challenging an enacted legislative map for this cycle.
The lawsuit was filed in the Nassau County Supreme Court. The residents and Democratic Committee who filed suit are being represented by counsel Dave Mejias, managing partner and founder of Mejias, Milgrim and Alvarado, P.C. in Glen Cove.
“Republicans are trying to rig the upcoming election by gerrymandering legislative districts to keep themselves in power,” Mejias said. “Through this lawsuit we hope to bring about competitive elections that will allow voters to choose their elected officials, not the other way around.”
Earlier in July, a New York State Appellate Court ordered New York’s bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw congressional maps. The court reversed a decision made last year by the state’s Supreme Court which rejected maps from Democratic officials in the Legislature that Judge Patrick McAllister said “were unconstitutionally drawn with political bias.”
The Appellate Division’s ruling is seen as a boost for Democrats, threatening the congressional districts in Long Island currently represented by two Republicans, including George Santos in District 3 and Anthony D’Espositio in District 4.