Too early to talk about litigation in redistricting process: Nicolello

Too early to talk about litigation in redistricting process: Nicolello
Legislative Majority Leader Rich Nicolello said it is premature to discuss litigation in the county's redistricting process. (Photo courtesy of the majority leader)

Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said it is premature to anticipate litigation on the county’s redistricting process, which the Republican-controlled legislature is now tasked with completing.

Last week, the Nassau County Temporary District Advisory Commission voted along party lines for a pair of resolutions to submit maps to the county Legislature, prompting Democratic officials to predict litigation would be filed. 

“The only thing that happened here is that the Republicans of Nassau County have guaranteed litigation over an illegal map,” Democratic committee member David Mejias said following the vote. “If and when they lose, it’s going to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Chairman Frank X. Moroney said Mejias’ prediction of litigation was something he had heard from the start of the redistricting process. Moroney said Republican officials asked the Democratic commission to work across the aisle, saying the Democrats “did not want to do that.”

“If we litigate it, we litigate it,” Moroney said about the maps. “It’s unfortunate.”

The 11-member committee made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and one nonvoting chairman, voted along party lines, 5-5, for each of their submissions. The county Legislature, comprised of 12 Republican officials and seven Democrats, will now be in charge of reviewing all of the maps, public input and materials obtained by the commission and drawing their own district lines.

Nicolello, in a statement to Blank Slate Media, said the work of the bipartisan commission is not the end result and the Legislature will review all the materials before making any decisions.

“With the close of the [commission], the process is now in the hands of the full Legislature,” Nicolello said. “We will carefully evaluate their work product before determining how to proceed. The [commission] work product is not the end of the process and it is premature to comment or expect any litigation.”

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said working in a bipartisan manner to help draw fair district lines is the goal for him and his fellow county Democrats.

“The Minority Caucus will closely scrutinize those materials and determine our next steps in this process,” Abrahams said in a statement. “Ultimately, it is our hope that we will be able to reach an agreement with the Majority Caucus on a map that is free of racial and political gerrymandering, complies with state and federal law, and ensures fair representation for all Nassau County residents.”

The map was last redrawn in 2013. Democratic officials have chastised Republicans for their lack of transparency in developing the 2023 map. They contend that the Republican proposal allows officials to select their representatives rather than the public.

“Our proposal eliminates partisan gerrymandering, complies fully with state and federal laws and enhances equity by ensuring there are five minority-majority districts where Black and Latino residents have the ability to elect the candidates of their choice,” Mejias said.

Republicans have defended their proposed map. They argue it is too late for Democrats to question the legality of the 2013 map on which their proposal is based.

“You’re way over the line and you know it,” Moroney told his Democratic colleagues during a work session. “You just don’t care because you want to sue us so bad that you’ll say anything to do it. And that’s what’s going on here. Leave [our mapmaker] alone.”

New district lines are required to be adopted by the county legislature in March, officials said.

Registered Democrats currently outnumber registered Republicans in Nassau by 100,000 – 420,000 to 320,000 with 277,000 blanks (no party affiliation).

As detailed in the 2020 U.S. Census, an influx of minority populations reflects Nassau County’s growing diversity.

The county’s total population increased by over 56,000 people, or 4.2%, over the last decade. According to the data, it is less than 5,000 people short of reaching 1.4 million.

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