Rapid population growth at the eastern end of Suffolk County will force lawmakers to revise election districts across the Island, legislators and analysts say.
Lawmakers must draw new maps every decade to comply with the latest U.S. census, with new boundaries in place for the 2012 elections. The process, as could be expected, is highly political because the addition or subtraction of just one community in a lawmaker's district can influence his or her re-election.
The law requires districts that are essentially equal in size, with some leeway. In the state Senate, this would mean the new districts should have about 312,000 residents -- or about 308,000 if senators add a new, 63rd seat as has been discussed. That should mean big changes for at least two Suffolk County districts.
As currently drawn, Senate District 1, long held by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), has 341,254 residents, according to breakdowns by The New York World and the New York Public Interest Research Group. District 3, held by freshman Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), has 322,962 residents.
In the Assembly, the average district size for the 2012 elections is set to be 129,187. Four Suffolk County districts top 140,000 in population: District 1, held by Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham); District 2, Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor); District 3, by Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue), and District 6, Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood).
"In some cases, Assembly and Senate districts [on Long Island] are so large they will be unconstitutional if the lines aren't changed," said Sasha Chavkin of The New York World, which has produced an interactive map showing whether districts are overpopulated or underpopulated. The New York World is published by the Columbia University Journalism School.
Meanwhile, some advocacy groups have urged lawmakers to avoid splitting up minority communities, weakening their influence in any one area. Legislators say there will be calls to carve out new "minority-majority" districts to improve the chances of a minority winning election.
"There is going to be a big push by Hispanics on the Island to keep neighborhoods together," said Assemb. John McEneny (D-Albany), co-chairman of the legislative task force charged with drawing new election-district maps.