Editorial: Nassau GOP legislators should listen to party leader on redistricting

Editorial: Nassau GOP legislators should listen to party leader on redistricting

State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy protested loudly when Democratic state legislators approved new congressional maps in February that gave members of their own party as many as three more seats and eliminated as many as four of the Republicans’ eight seats.

“New York Democrats have hijacked the redistricting process and this week passed and signed into law the most filthy, textbook gerrymandering that will destroy competitive elections in New York if allowed to stand,” Langworthy said. ”Democrats brazenly subverted the will of the people who voted twice by referendum to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and give district drawing powers to an independent, bipartisan panel.”

Langworthy had a point.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo the state passed a constitutional amendment in 2014 that created legally enforceable protections in state law against partisan gerrymandering.

But when the nonpartisan commission called for under the law was unable to agree on a congressional map, the Democratic-controlled Legislature took over. Instead of taking a half of loaf with a map that was reasonable but aided their party, they developed a one-sided plan.

A state court eventually agreed with Langworthy that state Democrats had violated that law and threw out the map. The judge then appointed a special master to draw up what would be some of the most politically balanced maps in the nation.

The state’s redrawn map goes a long way toward explaining why Democrats in New York lost four congressional districts in the recent elections.

Combined with partisan gerrymandering that took place in Republican-controlled states like Texas and Florida, it also helps explain why Republicans were able to capture the House of Representatives.

How then to explain the proposed map for Nassau legislative districts presented by the five Republicans appointed to the county’s 10-member Temporary Districting Advisory Commission?

The 2023 map presented by the five Republicans closely follows the gerrymandered one approved by the county Legislature in a 10-9 party-line vote in 2013.

The 2013 map created 12 districts with a majority of registered Republicans vs. seven districts with a majority of Democratic voters. This was at the time when Democrats had a 20,000 advantage over Republicans in registered voters countywide.

Nassau’s gerrymandered districts destroyed, as Langworthy said about the Democrats’ congressional plan, competitive elections in Nassau for the next 10 years.

Republicans gained an 11-8 advantage in the county Legislature during that period as only one Democrat managed to win one seat in a district with a majority of Republican voters.

The Democrats’ edge in registered voters in Nassau during the past 10 years has grown to 100,000 – 420,000 to 320,000 with 270,000 voters expressing no preference.

But with redistricting remaining in the hands of politicians in Nassau, it will be the Republican county legislators who ultimately decide on the new legislative map using the advantage they gained in 2013.

This is likely to again subvert the will of the people with a minority of voters gaining a majority of seats in the Legislature.

Unless the courts intervene as they did in the case of congressional maps drawn by the state Legislature and possibly North Hempstead.

Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira, along with Town Republicans David Adhami and Dennis Walsh, filed a federal complaint against the Town in October, claiming that the newly confirmed North Hempstead redistricting maps are unconstitutional.

The gerrymandered map created by the county Legislature in 2013 and now closely replicated by the map proposed by the Republican appointees in 2022 also create large obstacles to good representation.

The five Democrats appointed to the districting commission claim the map proposed by Republicans discriminates against minorities — a claim denied by Republicans. The Democrats have called for the creation of five districts designed to favor minorities, who now make up 40% of Nassau’s population.

The Republican map and, to a lesser extent the two Democratic maps, are also comprised of misshapen districts that divide communities into two, three or even four pieces.

The Greater Roslyn area is and would remain in four districts under the map proposed by Republican commission members. This would include districts currently represented by Democratic County legislators Joshua Lafazan and Arnold Drucker that stretch up to 14 miles from the Suffolk County border to parts of Roslyn.

The map proposed by Democratic commission members are not much better, leaving Roslyn divided into three districts and residents wondering who their representative is.

In September 2020, Nassau Democratic legislators proposed the creation of a redistricting commission to determine legislative boundaries after the completion of the 2020 census.

Democrats said the proposal, which included a timeline in which the process would take place and the appointment of a special master in case the commission missed its deadlines, was intended to create a fair and representative distribution of legislators.

But county Republican legislators ignored their request, opting for the 10-member temporary districting advisory committee with five Republican and five Democratic appointees.

To no one’s surprise, the commission failed to reach an agreement at its deadline on Monday night, voting 5-5 on party lines on two plans – one submitted by the Democrats and one by the Republicans.

This now leaves it up to a county Legislature with its 11-8 Republican advantage to decide on the new map.

David Mejias, who led the Democrats on the commission, predicted Monday night that this ensures that redistricting would end up in court, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

To which Redistricting Chairman Francis Moroney, a Republican appointed by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, essentially said bring it on.

When asked several years ago about an independent redistricting commission, Nassau County Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said, “It would be as political when you have a nonpartisan commission redrawing the lines as it is now.”

This is nonsense.

Langworthy had it right in February when he said redistricting should be taken out of the hands of politicians, who left to their own devices, will do what’s best for themselves and their party over the interests of residents.

Perhaps, Nassau Republicans will take to heart what their state party leader said in February. But don’t count on it.

Residents of both parties should raise their voices now in opposition to a district map that will inevitably be drawn to deny the will of the people.

Without the intervention of the courts, the alternative is to live with a map that will likely determine elections before they take place for the next 10 years.


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