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Appellate Panel Upholds Republican Nassau County Redistricting Plan

Democrats to Appeal Decision at State’s Highest Court on Aug. 24

Back in July, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger ruled against the plan by the Republican-controlled Nassau County Legislature to redistrict the Legislature for the 2011 elections. On Thursday, Aug. 11, a Second Judicial Department Appellate Panel reversed Jaeger’s ruling in a 3-2 decision, voting to uphold the new legislative districts drawn by County Attorney John Ciampoli’s staff earlier this year.

Since the Democratic Party did not collect nominating petitions based on the proposed new districts, considering them unlawful, if the latest decision is upheld, the party could be left without a candidate in the proposed 19th District in the upcoming election. However, Democrats have said they will take the case to the Court of Appeals to attempt to overturn the appellate court’s ruling and prevent redistricting until 2013.

The plan to redistrict the county’s 19 legislative districts, created by the County Attorney’s office at the urging of Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, was voted on and passed in the Legislature on May 24, along party lines. The main difference of opinion between the two parties hinges on interpretation of the county charter; while the Republicans argue that the wording of Section 112 provides a legal imperative for redistricting immediately, Democrats believe that Sections 113 and 114, which call for a bipartisan redistricting commission, are the intended implementation of the process.

While Republicans claim that their redistricting plan is lawful and necessary, Democrats say that the new district lines were politically motivated, drawn to favor Republicans in the election and weaken minority districts. So far, the courts have gone back and forth on the issue; now, the highest court in the state will hear arguments beginning Aug. 24.