Written by Karen Gellender, Kgellender@antonnews.com Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
The turbulent redistricting process in Nassau County came to an end last week with a party line vote approving a map drawn up by the Republican majority, But the strong possibility of a lawsuit by those opposed to the new map looms.
Republican legislators were booed by members of the audience as they voted for the GOP map. Critics of the map had held out hope that Legislator Denise Ford, who had voted against a similar Republican map in 2011, would vote against her caucus, but she voted with the majority. The map passed 10-9.
Initially, the legislature planned to vote on the map on Feb. 26, but after a record-breaking 12-hour session, featuring hours of impassioned testimony from residents from all over the county who oppose the map, they instead pushed back the vote to March 5, the legal deadline.
During the interim, two changes residents had requested were made: the return of Legislator Dave Denenberg’s house to his District 19 (though his neighbors on the same street, as he noted, are still left out), and the community of Jericho Gardens was returned to District Two. However, the primary criticism of the map—that it divides communities like the Five Towns, Roslyn, Elmont, and many more between multiple districts, and utilizes oddly-shaped, non-contiguous districts—were not addressed.
Denenberg was one of the most vocal in his disdain for the map. “It is clear this has been a desperate attempt to carve 12 Republican districts in a county that is no longer Republican; the result is a dilution of the minority community, the result is a District 14 like a snake with its head disjointed, a Five Towns which has become the 1.25 Towns, and in Roslyn, I defy anyone to know who their legislator will be,” he said. He did, however, thank Ford for spearheading the effort to restore his house to his own district.
Democratic Legislator Wayne Wink, who was also not shy in voicing his disapproval, accused the Republicans of “Crocodile Tears” when several claimed they were voting for the map with some misgivings, but were not specific as to what those misgivings were and what they intended to do about them.
Now everyone’s attention is focused on the legal battle that will likely begin shortly (barring a highly unlikely veto of the map from the County Executive.) Civil Rights attorney Fred Brewington, a frequent speaker at the hearings, has stated there are grounds for a lawsuit against the Republicans for several reasons: the map is non-contiguous, and may be in violation of both the Voting Rights Act and several Supreme Court decisions, including Reno Vs. Shaw. Other concerns raised by lawyers who spoke at the hearings included the fact that since no public workshop meetings of the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission were held, the county may be in violation of the Open Meetings Law. Commission Chair Frank Moroney’s claim that there was no written communication between the Republican majority and Skyline Demographics, the company that created the map, has frequently been cited as an oddity in today’s age of copious digital documentation, and could come under legal scrutiny.
In general, everyone present talked about a lawsuit against the Republican majority as a foregone conclusion, residents and legislators alike. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams told those who were upset by the day’s vote to gear up and get ready.
“Go home and eat your Wheaties, take your vitamins…this fight is not over.”