Judge rules against Nassau redistricting

Nassau Legislator David Denenberg along with other members

Nassau Legislator David Denenberg along with other members of the Nassau County Legislature argue about redistricting in Mineola, New York. (May 24, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A Nassau State Supreme Court Justice has ruled that the recently enacted redistricting plan for the county legislature cannot go into effect this year, but must wait until 2013.

"The Court concludes that there is no basis in the Nassau County Charter itself, the legislative intent, the legislative history, or the established past practice of the Legislature to immediately adjust the 19 County legislative districts for the 2011 general election. [The charter requires] one 3-step redistricting process to take place over the course of many months for implementation in 2013," said Acting Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger in his decision.

The GOP-controlled Nassau Legislature voted 10-8 on May 24 for a legislative redistricting plan that Republicans said is required by the county charter but that Democrats decried as a power grab. Democratic members of the legislature filed the suit against the law going into effect before 2013.

"I think the judge carefully studied the law and reached the right conclusion -- in fact the only possible conclusion," said the Democrats' lawyer, Steven Schlesinger.

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) sponsored the legislation, which was masterminded by County Attorney John Ciampoli.

Schmitt was not immediately available for comment, but spokesman Ed Ward said the decision would be appealed.

Schmitt had cited a legal opinion by Ciampoli that said the county charter required the legislature to approve a new reapportionment plan within eight months of the release of the new U.S. Census. Those numbers were made public April 1.

Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) said, "I am so thrilled that Judge Jaeger rendered a strong opinion which confirms that the Republican County Legislature's premature redistricting attempt was poorly timed and wrong."

Two of Jaeger's interim decisions in this case were nullified by an appellate division judge, and a related case is in the federal District Court.

Democrats and many minorities had opposed the new lines, calling the move a political power grab designed to increase the current 11-8 GOP majority.

They noted that the plan would force four Democratic lawmakers into two districts, while taking some residents from heavily minority districts and placing them into predominantly white districts.

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