A coalition of nonpartisan groups last week called on the Nassau County Legislature to overhaul its redistricting process, which occurs every decade following the release of census data to account for population shifts.
On Jan. 27, more than a dozen people from the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition gathered on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building in Mineola to make their voices heard. Chanting, “Put voters first!” the group decried last year’s redistricting process, which reconfigured the county’s 19 legislative districts.
“The system is broken in Nassau County,” said Steve McFarland of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table. “We have a redistricting system that puts partisan interests over the needs and interests of communities and voters.”
Other groups that joined the coalition included the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, Common Cause New York and La Fuente Long Island Civic Participation Project.
McFarland announced the results of a survey his organization conducted on redistricting, saying that 81 percent of residents would prefer a citizen-controlled process. He also said that average voters want their communities kept together in a legislative district.
Last year’s redistricting process drew much ire from the coalition as well as Nassau County residents. An advisory commission tasked with the job did not present a unified plan to the Legislature; instead, the Republican and Democratic members of the committee submitted two different plans. Ultimately, a modified Republican plan was approved by the Legislature, by a vote of 10-9 along party lines. The new districts took effect on Jan. 1.
Critics of the process said that the plan divided many communities, and was designed to protect the Republican majority. Backers of the new map said it met all constitutional requirements, and added a minority district in the west end of the county.
The next time redistricting will be dealt with will be 2023, but members of the coalition say now is the time to change the county charter. They said they want a system that is fairer to voters.