Nassau County Republicans unveiled a plan last week to redraw legislative districts — a plan that would figuratively uproot many voters and place them in politically unfamiliar territory. Malverne, Lakeview and West Hempstead — three communities that are currently divided among five county legislators — would each fall under the jurisdiction of a single legislator under the proposed redistricting.
The GOP’s proposal would pull Malverne out of Legislative District 6 and group it together with most of what is now LD 7 (the Five Towns). Lakeview, which is part of LD 2, would be absorbed into what is now LD 1, effectively changing the percentage of minority voters in LD 2. West Hempstead, which is now split between three legislators, would be represented by one legislator.
The plan is currently being both lauded and decried along party lines: the Democrats are accusing the Republicans of making a “pre-emptive power grab,” while the Republicans claim they are simply acting in accordance with a law that requires redistricting within six months of the release of census data.
The Nassau County Legislature was formed on May 24, 1994, after U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt had ruled in 1993 that the county’s longstanding Board of Supervisors was unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution’s one-person, one vote rule. A 19-district Legislature was created to replace the Board of Supervisors. The Legislature’s first election took place in November 1995, and legislators took office for the first time on Jan. 1, 1996.
The county charter mandates that the Legislature’s lines be redrawn every 10 years to ensure that the population of legislative districts remains roughly equal, at 70,000, and that minority residents are fairly represented. Legislative lines were last redrawn in 2003 by a Democratically controlled Legislature.
At the time, the Legislature’s Republican minority challenged the redrawn lines in court, saying the new districts were oddly shaped and divided communities in order to provide Democrats with a political advantage in future elections.