Nassau Dems offer own redistricting map

Jay Jacobs, Nassau's Democratic leader, prepares for 2013.

Jay Jacobs, Nassau's Democratic leader, prepares for 2013. (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

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Nassau Democrats have offered their own redistricting map for the county legislature, claiming that a GOP plan proposed last week violates the Voting Rights Act and moves half of the county into different districts.

Democrats say their plan would keep the 19 legislative districts largely the same, while making minor adjustments for population changes.

"We've given a sensible map," said Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs. "Our map moves less than 20,000 people out of 1.3 million" people living in Nassau. "Their map moves something in the area of 680,000 people and changes the entire structure of the map."

The Democratic plan has been posted on Nassau's Temporary Districting Advisory Commission website with the Republican one posted Friday. The commission will hold a public hearing on the maps Thursday at 6 p.m.

While commission chairman Frank Moroney, a Republican, has said the GOP map is fair, Jacobs called it "extraordinarily outrageous."

Though boundaries are difficult to discern, the GOP map appears to put three incumbent Democrats -- Kevan Abrahams of Freeport, David Denenberg of Merrick and Joseph Scannell of Baldwin -- into a new 14th District; it seems to draw incumbent Democrats Delia DeRiggi-Whitton of Glen Cove and Judy Jacobs of Woodbury (no relation to Jay Jacobs) into the same 16th District; and puts incumbent Republicans Joseph Belesi of Farmingdale and Michael Venditto of Massapequa together.

Democrats say Republican incumbents Vincent Muscarella of West Hempstead and Rose Walker of Hicksville would lose most of their current districts and complain that the Five Towns has been carved into three legislative districts and Great Neck split into two, thus dividing their largely Jewish communities.

Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) said changes in his 2nd District violate the federal Voting Rights Act. "It cuts the minority community in Westbury/New Cassel, which is one of the most powerful minority voting blocs in the county based on its high voter turnout ratio, into three separate and distinct districts, thereby diluting its overall influence," he said.

Republicans originally said Troiano and Abrahams had been drawn into the same district, but apparently did not realize that Abrahams, the Democratic minority leader, had moved from Hempstead to Freeport last year.

Moroney said Republican commissioners told their consultant -- Skyline Demographic Consultants Inc. of Albany, headed by David Schaefer -- to draw the map "blind to incumbency." He also termed allegations of voting-rights violations "just silly."

The Republican-controlled county legislature can accept either of the commission's maps, revise them or adopt a completely new map by the charter-set deadline of March 5.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said Wednesday that lawmakers "will be reviewing both maps and reviewing testimony obtained through the various commission meetings."

Jay Jacobs predicted Republicans would not vote for the current GOP map while some Democrats suggested its proposed lines were meant to persuade party lawmakers to change their stand against borrowing. Demanding a "fair" redistricting process, Democrats have refused to approve GOP-backed borrowing to pay property tax refunds.

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