For nearly nine hours on Monday, county legislators discussed their plan to redraw the county’s 19 legislative districts, and ultimately decided to call a recess at 1 a.m. without voting on it.
Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) said the decision to delay the vote made sense. “We are trying to assess what everyone’s positions are, and we heard a lot of testimonies,” he said. “Our job and obligation is to hear what everyone is saying and think about it. That’s what people want us to do, and that is what we’re doing.”
The legislators listened to six hours of public comment from hundreds of Nassau County residents who attended the full Legislature meeting to voice their often vehement opposition to the Republican-led plan. Remarks ranged from calm calls to delay the final vote to accusations of racism and a power grab on the part of the county Republican Party.
Much of the opposition to the plan was based on a the claim that it unjustifiably splits communities into separate districts. Steve Anchin of the Five Towns Democratic Club said he was pleased that the redistricting decision was delayed. “They need to reconsider the plan completely, and hopefully this will lead to that,” he said. “If the Republicans’ plan is approved, the Five Towns will be split into four districts. I hope they redraw the plan to meet the interests of Nassau County residents, and not those of the Republican Party.”
The Republicans endured accusations of attempting to shore up their position in the Legislature through gerrymandering. “You must have seen the movie ‘Maltese Falcon,’ because your map is the stuff dreams are made of,” said David Stonehill, of Merrick. “These political dreams consist of the following: split up communities in the name of political expediency; suppress the vote and political impact of the black community through voter deletion; suppress the vote and political impact of the Latino community through voter deletion; suppress the vote and political impact of the Jewish community through voter deletion.”
Stonehill, an attorney, added that he believed the proposed map was “headed for the judicial system.”