An expert in demographics and redistricting told a federal court Tuesday that the new legislative lines recently adopted by the Nassau County Legislature dilute the minority vote and unnecessarily break up the heavily black and Hispanic community of Elmont.
"Yes, that plan dilutes the minority vote," said Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College, responding to a question by Hempstead lawyer Randolph McLaughlin of the law firm of Frederick K. Brewington.
Beveridge, an expert in statistical analysis of redistricting plans, who has worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, was a witness for the petitioners who wish to stop the new plan from going into effect, especially for the elections in November.
"The breakup of District Three [which included all of Elmont] was totally unnecessary," he said of the new plan moving 76 percent of those voters into new districts. Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
The new redistricting plan has been under attack since becoming public on April 25. It would force four Democratic lawmakers into two districts, while taking some residents from heavily minority districts and putting them into predominantly white districts.
However, the legislature's presiding officer, Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), argues his proposal should be enacted because at least one district -- a minority dominated one -- has grown too large and the number of voters needs to be more evenly distributed. Moreover, he said, his plan gives minorities a chance to add to the two districts they hold.
Meanwhile in state court, Democratic lawmakers filed additional arguments Tuesday contending the Republican redistricting violates a two-year reapportionment process described in the county charter.
With no public input, County Attorney John Ciampoli proposed the new district map April 25. The Republican majority on the county legislature approved it May 25.
Democrats are asking Acting State Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger to declare the new lines illegal and find that redistricting does not take effect until the 2013 elections.
Included in the Democrats' papers is an affidavit from Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte contending the new lines have multiple errors, "making it impossible to map all of the new legislative districts at this time."
An aide to Schmitt said Biamonte's position was referred to Ciampoli, but noted Republican election officials had no similar complaints. "He has to do it," said Ed Ward. "It's the law."