Redistricting is most likely something Nassau County residents don’t want to think about again for another decade, especially after last year’s long and contentious process to redraw the county’s 19 legislative districts.
But redistricting is a highly consequential issue, and needs attention now so voters can get a fairer shake when it takes place again in 2023. A coalition of several civic groups has called for revisions to the county charter that would create a citizen-led redistricting commission, taking the politics out of what has become a very partisan process.
Redistricting is necessary to ensure that legislative districts are roughly equal in size, protecting the principle of one person, one vote. But the process should not be abused, and that’s exactly what happens when a party’s interests are put before voters’.
Nassau County offers the quintessential example of the party in power doing what it wants to stay in power. Last year’s “bipartisan” redistricting commission demonstrated, ironically, no bipartisanship. Each party simply devised its own party-favoring map. Since the GOP was in power this time, having gained a seat in November, it was no surprise that the Republican-proposed legislative boundaries were approved, 10-9, in a party-line vote. As drawn, the new map essentially selected the constituents for the legislators, contrary to the way it’s supposed to work in our democratic system.
We’re not so naïve to think we can take politics out of democracy. The two were inextricably linked at democracy’s genesis and will remain so. The idea, rather, is to prevent, to the extent possible, politicians from favoring supporters and excluding opponents from their elections, and so corrupting democratic principles.