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Friday, October 24, 2014
Editorial
Town should seize redistricting opportunity

In so many ways, the Town of Hempstead has set an example of how government ought to operate. It has earned deserved acclaim for its record on the environment, its effectiveness in providing services like snow plowing and sanitation, and its ability to keep town taxes as low as possible while other levels of government too often look to property owners for more funds instead of managing their budgets better.

No one thinks the town is perfect, and we have criticized some of its actions in the past.

But now it has a great opportunity to show how redistricting ought to be done, like it has shown the way on so many other government functions.

Every 10 years, when the federal government conducts the census, the data reveal shifts in population from one area to another. This happens locally, with increases and decreases in population in congressional, State Assembly, State Senate, county legislative and town council districts. Voting district boundaries must be redrawn to reflect these changes and to make sure that each district has roughly the same number of people. The remapping must also assure that communities aren’t unnecessarily split and that minorities have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

The Republican majority in the County Legislature has been excoriated by nonpartisan good-government groups, such as the League of Women Voters, as well as by the Herald’s editorial board, for its blatantly political manipulation of the redistricting process. The GOP’s gerrymandering scheme of party-boosting remapping splits several communities and effectively disenfranchises many voters.

The town will hold a hearing on its new map, yet to be released, on March 19. Troublingly, town Republicans hired the same remapping consulting firm that the county Republicans did. Before it’s too late, the Republicans who rule the town must resist the urge to take maximum political advantage, and should instead listen carefully to the League of Women Voters and the rest of the good-governing coalition that tried in vain to save the county’s process from becoming a sham. The GOP should include the coalition’s concepts and input when developing the town’s new districts. It should demonstrate nonpartisanship.

This is another opportunity for the town to shine. It can show how elected leaders who are serious about earning reputations as effective public servants can remap their districts in a fair, voter-equality-oriented way, without regard to party preservation and incumbent protection. We urge town Republicans to seize this chance to show others how redistricting is properly done.

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