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County Democrats Hold Redistricting Forum

Redistricting commission members allege that the public is being left out of the process once again

On Wednesday, July 25, prominent county Democrats gathered at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview to discuss what they view as the Republican majority’s inability to fairly and successfully redraw district lines. The meeting was set up by the Democratic members of the Nassau County Temporary Districting Advisory Commission in response to the June 28 commission meeting. Commission members said that Republican chairman Francis Moroney would not allow the public to influence the commission’s decisions, whereas their party welcomes public input.

Republican members of the 11-person panel were invited to this town-wide meeting, but chose to not participate. The purpose of the meeting, according to Democratic commission member Bonnie Garone, was to educate the public. Garone stated that “[redistricting] is a public process, and frankly the public is not being treated fairly.”

Redistricting is a process that occurs every ten years, a process that is based on the legal principal of “One Man, One Vote.” Districts are formed based on the number of people in a given area, which is recorded every decade by the census. In comparison to 10 years ago, the western part of the county is now more populated than the east, leaving five districts under-populated. This calls for lines to be redrawn.

According to Jeff Wice, a recognized national redistricting and voting rights law expert who has worked as the Democratic National Committee’s redistricting council since the 1980s, each of the 19 legislative districts need to have approximately 67,000 people living within them.

Republican commission members redrew these lines on their own last year, and according to Democratic Legislator Wayne Wink, these lines “took weeks to make in the basement of the county building, not because they had to but because they thought they could. At the end of the day, they were proven wrong by the court.”

Wink was referring to the September, 2011 New York State Court of Appeals decision that stated that the Republican map was not in compliance with the Nassau County Charter.

Wink went on to say that the Republican-suggested lines would have lead to a change of 35,000 people in his district and Legislature Judi Bosworth’s abutting district, separating school districts and various other community units. Lines were generally altered from North-South to East-West, severing current districts. For example, 60 percent of Wink’s district would have been changed, leaving Wink to oversee unfamiliar territory.

Commission member Dave Mejias said, “The Republicans in Nassau want to eviscerate the Democratic Party…the community will be badly affected by these decisions.”

The Republicans, argued Wink and others, are looking to force incumbent Democrats into the same districts. Under the Republican’s proposed map, Judy Jacobs’ Plainview-Syosset district would have become part of Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton’s Glen Cove district, leaving one of these two legislators to be removed from her position.

Concerned citizen Dan Checkla of Hempstead told the panel that he was disturbed that the map had split up the Bellmore-Merrick High School District, which encompasses Bellmore, North Bellmore, Merrick and North Merrick. Others in attendance voiced that they felt similarly about their own school districts.

People in attendance also commented that the meeting at the Y was not properly publicized. Garone responded that Chairman Moroney did not post the event on the commission website since, according to Garone, the chairman did not recognize the event as an approved commission function.

Approximately 50 people attended the meeting. Among those in attendance were members of the chamber of commerce and the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education. Some of the concerned community members present said that they are hopeful that they will be able to influence local policymakers to draw the new lines fairly, and in the best interest of the communities that make up the county.

Attempts by Anton Newspapers to contact Francis Moroney for comment were unsuccessful.