The final redistricting hearing of the Nassau County Legislature in...

The final redistricting hearing of the Nassau County Legislature in February in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Democratic Committee and 20 registered voters on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to overturn the county legislature's new district lines, alleging the map creates districts favoring Republican candidates, limits competition and dilutes the voting power of communities of color. 

The 23-page complaint, filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola, names as defendants Nassau County, the Republican-controlled legislature, the county Board of Elections and both the Republican and Democratic election commissioners. All the plaintiffs who are voters are Democrats, except one who is not aligned with a political party.

The lawsuit asks the court to render the 2023 district map illegal under the state constitution, prohibit the Board of Elections from conducting any future elections under the map and give the legislature ample opportunity to draw new maps.

"Republicans are trying to rig the upcoming election by gerrymandering legislative districts to keep themselves in power," said David L. Mejias, the attorney for the plaintiffs, who served on a bipartisan committee that made redistricting recommendations to the legislature.

"Through this lawsuit we hope to bring about competitive elections that will allow voters to choose their elected officials, not the other way around," Mejias said.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said Republican lawmakers "drew political maps that provide them personal political advantages while disenfranchising minority voters throughout the county. Every voter is entitled to equal representation under federal and state laws regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, and the Nassau Democratic Committee intends to fight until such representation is achieved.”

Republicans have defended the new legislative map, saying it creates “fair-fight” districts in Nassau that comply with state and federal voting laws.

For instance, Republicans say the map creates a more competitive district for Legis. William Gaylor (R-Lynbrook), because it includes more enrolled Democrats.

They also noted the new map left incumbent Legis. Laura Schaefer (R-Westbury) without a district. Schaefer announced she was stepping down from the legislature earlier this year.

Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo could not be reached for comment on the Democrats' lawsuit Wednesday night.

Mike Deery, a spokesman for the Nassau GOP, declined to comment until party officials have had a chance to review the court documents.

The lawsuit comes five months after the Nassau County Legislature adopted the new district map as part of the county's redistricting process and less than four months before the Nov. 7 elections, in which all 19 legislative seats are up for election.

The suit also comes less than two weeks after a state appellate court ruled New York congressional districts mandated last year by a special master should be redone. If the decision is upheld, Democrats who control the State Legislature would have final say over new districts for the 2024 House elections.

Like congressional districts, the county legislative boundaries are reapportioned once every 10 years to reflect changes in the population, based on updated U.S. Census data.

Republicans hold a 12-7 majority in the county legislature. The last time voters elected a Democratic legislative majority was in 2007. Democrats lost control of the county legislature in 2009.

According to the court filing, the 2023 redistricting map, "packs Democratic-leaning voters into District 2 and 3" and spreads out voters who live in communities with high concentrations of Democratic-leaning voters, "so as to dilute their voting strength."

The lawsuit alleges the map "favors the Republican Party and disfavors the Democratic Party" in ways such as: 

  • Forcing two Democratic incumbents to run against each other in one district while throwing no Republican incumbents together.
  • Moving Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) from a solidly Democratic district to a Republican-leaning district. Abrahams announced his retirement shortly after the new map was adopted.

The vote to adopt the new map on Feb. 27 was along party lines with 11 Republicans in support and 7 Democrats against. At the time, one legislative seat was vacant.

The vote to adopt the 2023 map came after more than six months of public and expert testimony — often confrontational and emotional — in 15 public meetings in all three towns in the county.

The bipartisan redistricting panel, comprising five Democrats and five Republicans, and a nonvoting Republican chairman, Frank X. Moroney, failed to agree on a new map. The panel advanced two maps to the county legislature, one created by Democrats and another by Republicans.

The legislature eventually adopted a map more closely aligned with the Republican proposal, which kept old districts drawn in 2013 largely intact.

The suit alleges the 2013 legislative map violated the "one-person-one-vote" principle in the state constitution that protects equal representation in voting.

Moroney could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME