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The unheralded winner in Tuesday's Nassau County elections was the Republican redistricting map originally drawn up by former County Attorney John Ciampoli, tweaked by the Republican-controlled redistricting commission and adopted by the Republican-controlled legislature in March 2013.
The map, which redrew the lines for the 19 legislative districts, locked in a Republican majority, barring major scandals and natural disasters.
Not only did the map put thousands more Republican voters than Democratic voters into most of the 12 districts held by Republicans, helping their chances at re-election, it also packed Democratic voters into the seven legislative districts held by Democrats, weakening their incentive to work hard to pull out Democratic votes on Election Day.
An example of this strategy can be seen in District 1, held by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). Registration in that district is more than 4 to 1 Democrat to Republican. Although 29,431 Democrats are registered in the district that includes Uniondale, Roosevelt and parts of Freeport, Abrahams received just 5,592 votes. He still won handily, because his Republican challenger received just 1,005 votes. Overall voter turnout in the district was just 14 percent of all registered voters.
In comparison, Democrat Eileen Napolitano of East Meadow pulled more votes than Abrahams in her hard-fought race against Republican Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves in District 13, which has a near 4,000-vote Republican advantage. Napolitano received 5,771 votes in the district, which has almost 17,000 registered Democrats compared to 20,856 Republicans. Gonsalves received 6,738 votes to win re-election. Overall voter turnout in the district was more than 23 percent.
Napolitano received more votes than Democratic Legis. Siela Bynoe of Westbury, who won with 4,562 votes from her district where there are 24,515 enrolled Democrats compared to 5,959 Republicans, and more votes than Democratic Legis. Carrie Solages of Elmont, who won re-election with 5,457 votes from his district, which includes 28,074 enrolled Democrats and 8,958 Republicans.
The covert strategy to suppress Democratic votes didn’t work in longtime Democratic Legis. Judith Jacobs' 16th District. Always an active campaigner, Jacobs, of Woodbury, pulled 7,344 votes to win her district, which has 22,660 enrolled Democrats to 14,197 Republicans.
Ciampoli on Friday downplayed his role in developing a map that ensures a Republican legislative majority. He said the final redistricting plan also was a product of the county’s reapportionment commission with citizen input.
“It was done absolutely according to the law,” Ciampoli said. “I think the election results you had on the county level for the full legislature demonstrated that the Republican majority has been responsive to the interests of their community and they were rewarded with re-election.”
Frank Moroney, a Gonsalves aide who served as chairman of the redistricting commission, said the final map “met all the (legal) criteria almost to the letter. It was a map that was adopted without any challenge.”
As for the Republican majority’s victory, he said, “It’s fair to say the Republicans stayed on message and delivered the goods as far as the voting population is concerned.”
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said, "There's no question but that the Republican redistricting created an unfair and unrepresentative distribution of legislators. However, I don't think that it caused any change in motivating turnout among Democrats. Democratic turnout in safe districts has always been disappointing in spite of strong efforts to bring out the vote. Unfortunately, we have found that in off-year elections when national issues are not on the table, Democratic turnout nationwide is weak. That's not a Nassau County issue, it's a national issue."