Bipartisan commission at odds over timeline

Redistricting raises a variety of concerns


As part of the legislative redistricting public hearings, Nassau County residents heard recommendations and offered their input on the new map of the county’s 19 legislative districts.
The hearing, held Oct. 18 at Glen Cove City Hall, allowed public comment on the current and proposed maps.
The hearings, which began countywide in August, are overseen by the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission, which comprises five Democrats, five Republicans and a non-voting member who serves as chair, appointed by the county executive.
In the post-census season, redistricting in Nassau County has the potential to reshape town lines and political power. This unique but controversial process takes place every 10 years, but often leaves voters concerned about the potential for gerrymandering — the manipulation of district boundaries to discriminate against a group of voters based on their political views or race.
The district lines determine which voters can vote for their respective representatives. Changing those lines changes the makeup of district voters, and can change the identity, allegiance and political priorities of a district’s representative, and of the legislative delegation. Redistricting also affects whether a state’s diverse communities are represented in its legislative bodies.

During the hearing, Advisory Commission member David Mejias, a Democrat, expressed his concerns that the Republican delegation still claims it has not contracted any experts and has no one working to analyze or develop maps.
“This is even more concerning as this shows that they are either counting on the Republican-controlled Legislature to develop the maps and choose their voters, rather than their voters choosing them and choose what district lines they want to run in,” Mejias said.
He added that he feels that Republicans’ lack of experts could be a clear sign of neglect of their responsibility to the public. “This is unacceptable, and an insult to the process and the people,” Mejias said, “as it gives the people in Nassau County zero time to review the maps and put any concerns or questions they may have on the record.”
Republican Commissioner Peter Bee said that his understanding is the commission must prioritize hearing from the public. “The commission spent 20 minutes hearing from the Democratic delegation that their lawyer has told them that a 10-year-old map is illegal,” he said.
He added that the commission’s first step before drawing maps is to hear from the public as to how they would like the new map to look.
Residents had only three minutes to express their thoughts to the commission, but each spoke impassionedly about their concerns.
Karen Moskowitz, the co-chair of the Nassau League of Women Voters Redistricting Committee, was the first to speak, expressing many concerns about the proceedings.
“Today what we’ve witnessed is an opaque procedure,” Moskowitz said. “The public must work to find meeting details on the official commission website. Details of future meetings aren’t posted in a timely manner, or require layers of click-through to access.”
Moskowitz was concerned about the plan to introduce proposed maps at 5 p.m. on Nov. 10 and submit them to the legislature three and a half hours later. This effectively eliminates the public’s ability to analyze and respond to the maps prior to their submission to the legislature. “Let’s make the efforts necessary for a fair redistricting process,” she said.
Nassau County has a population of 1.3 million residents in the three towns, two cities, and 64 incorporated villages. The census shows a population decrease in the number of white residents from 73 percent to 58 percent. There is also a 60 percent increase in the Asian community, and a 30 percent increase in the Latino community.
The county allocated $985,000 to the districting commission for mapping technology and to pay experts, legal fees, and other expenses.
At the hearing, the Democratic delegation of the TDAC cited research they tried to present at their last hearing by Dr. Daniel B. Magleby, associate professor at Binghamton University, stating that the current map is illegal and new maps must be developed from scratch.
In Magleby’s simulation of 10,000 hypothetical maps which were randomly generated following the current law, he found that none has the level of bias against Democratic voters as the current map.
Commissioner Christopher Devane claimed that the Democrats have resorted to ambushing tactics by not disclosing their PowerPoint presentation before meetings and are trying to delay the redistricting process.
Mejias rebutted Devane’s statement, saying, “The only ambush happening here is coming from the government for the Republican delegation on the people of Nassau County.”
The evening concluded with a remark by Stephanie Chase, from Rockville Centre. She pleaded for transparency with the redistricting process.
“Everyone has said the same thing.The public would like to see the maps at least two weeks before their turn-over,” Chase said. “We just hope that you’re listening to us.”