Poll: Most Nassau voters support nonpartisan redistricting

A majority of Nassau voters surveyed by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table support creating a nonpartisan redistricting process, according to results released Monday by the Brentwood-based advocacy group.

The poll comes after nearly two years of partisan bickering over the county legislature's 19-district map. In March, the legislature, in a 10-9 party-line vote, approved a new map drawn by the Republican majority, which Democrats argued favored Republican candidates.

In a phone survey of 263 randomly selected Nassau voters, 81 percent of respondents said they would support a redistricting process led by a commission of citizens or community leaders. Twelve percent opposed any reforms, and another 7 percent had no opinion.

The poll, conducted from Nov. 25 thru Dec. 2, had a plus or minus 6-percentage-point margin of error.

"We hear overwhelming public support for reforms in lieu of the partisan madness of 2012," said Daniel Altschuler, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table.

Polling experts cautioned that the data may not be entirely conclusive, citing the small sample size, the margin of error that exceeds 5 points, and the use of an automated telephone system that relied on respondents to dial in their responses.

"Some folks have been reasonably successful with automated surveys when they do them nationally, when they do them with large sample sizes," said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. "But this is certainly a small sample."

Altschuler said the group was confident in the poll results because the poll was conducted with "state-of-the-art technology."

"Nationally, we've seen polls use similar methodology and use the same technology and the results frankly reflect what we hear on the ground," Altschuler said.

The group plans to forward the findings to legislators and community leaders with the goal of starting discussions to revamp the redistricting process.

"One scenario that we've seen work elsewhere is having a citizen-led redistricting commission where members could not have close ties with a political party," Altschuler said.

Francis X. Moroney, a Republican who served as chairman of the county's redistricting advisory panel, said it would be difficult to keep politics out of the process.

"It sounds like a great idea to have an independent body, but who picks the people? Who determines what their politics are?" Moroney said in a phone interview.

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