People gather in the chamber of the Nassau County Legislature during...

People gather in the chamber of the Nassau County Legislature during a meeting of the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission on Nov. 16. Credit: John Roca

The bipartisan commission charged with redrawing all 19 districts of the Nassau County Legislature is expected to vote Monday night on two drastically different proposals submitted by Republicans and Democrats.

The prospect of the two sides agreeing on one map to send to the county legislature for approval is unlikely, Republicans and Democrats told Newsday.

"I just don't see it happening — we're just too far apart," said Peter Bee, a Republican commissioner.

If commission members can't agree, the Republican-controlled legislature can adopt one of the legislative maps or create another one.

The once-in-a-decade process to redraw legislative lines based on the 2020 United States Census has been marked by partisan squabbles, allegations of gerrymandering and a series of unruly public meetings.

The current map was drawn in 2013 based on the 2010 Census.

Republicans on the commission submitted a map that would keep most voters in their current legislative districts, adjusted along the perimeters, to give each district the required population of about 73,500.

Democrats have proposed entirely new districts, arguing the 2013 map would not meet the new federal and state legal standards adopted since then. 

Republicans say it's too late to call a map that's been in place for the last 10 years "illegal," as Democrats have, and say the validity of the current districts has never been tested in court.   

Democrats also accuse Republicans of gerrymandering new district lines to buttress their legislative majority and dilute minority voting power. 

"This is about equity — not necessarily equality — but equity," said David Mejias, a Democratic member of the redistricting panel. "This is about undoing decades of systematic, institutional racism and segregation that occurred here on Long Island."

Republican commissioners defend their proposed map.

They say it comes closer than the Democrats' proposal to creating districts of equal size and complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory election practices.

Republicans said they were guided by 2021 amendments to the state municipal home rule law that established guidelines for creation of equal-sized districts that have contiguous territories and do not favor incumbents or deny racial minorities equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

The temporary redistricting commission has five members appointed by legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and five appointed by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

The nonvoting chairman, Frank X. Moroney, was appointed by Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

The commission conducted 10 public hearings throughout Nassau County beginning Aug. 31.

The panel released the competing Democratic and Republican maps on Nov. 10, and held a public hearing with more than 50 speakers in Mineola on Nov. 16.

There will be no public comment period at Monday night's meeting.

The Democrats' proposal would create five "majority-minority" districts in which Black, Latino and Asian voters comprise more than 50% of the electorate.

Among these districts would be one that is majority Asian.

Republicans, whose plan has four majority-minority districts, are disputing the Democrats' definition of an Asian district. Moroney did not explain further.

Daniel Magleby, a Democratic consultant who testified at the Nov. 16 hearing, called both the 2013 district maps and the new GOP proposal "an extreme partisan gerrymander."

"The problem with the 2013 map is that it does not count votes equally," said Magleby, a Binghamton University associate professor of political science.

"It underweights Democratic votes systematically. Moreover it excludes Democratic voters from an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing in a set of districts that are critical for determining which party will control the county legislature," Magleby said.

Michael Li, senior counsel for the nonprofit Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at NYU and an expert on redistricting, said a key task of redistricting is keeping together communities with common interests.

He cited the example of a California State Assembly district in the Los Angeles area where members of communities concerned about wildfires sought to stay together in a single district.

"The guiding light is that the maps respond to electoral shifts," Li told Newsday. "In our country today, it's the suburbs that are swing territory. Any place as suburban as Nassau County you would expect to be quintessentially swingy." 

The bipartisan commission charged with redrawing all 19 districts of the Nassau County Legislature is expected to vote Monday night on two drastically different proposals submitted by Republicans and Democrats.

The prospect of the two sides agreeing on one map to send to the county legislature for approval is unlikely, Republicans and Democrats told Newsday.

"I just don't see it happening — we're just too far apart," said Peter Bee, a Republican commissioner.

If commission members can't agree, the Republican-controlled legislature can adopt one of the legislative maps or create another one.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The bipartisan commission charged with redrawing all 19 districts of the Nassau County Legislature is expected to vote Monday on divergent proposals submitted by Republicans and Democrats.
  • It's unlikely the two sides will agree on one map to send to the legislature for approval, according to Republicans and Democrats.
  • If panel members can't agree, the Republican-controlled legislature can adopt one of the proposed maps or create another one.

The once-in-a-decade process to redraw legislative lines based on the 2020 United States Census has been marked by partisan squabbles, allegations of gerrymandering and a series of unruly public meetings.

The current map was drawn in 2013 based on the 2010 Census.

Republicans on the commission submitted a map that would keep most voters in their current legislative districts, adjusted along the perimeters, to give each district the required population of about 73,500.

Democrats have proposed entirely new districts, arguing the 2013 map would not meet the new federal and state legal standards adopted since then. 

Republicans say it's too late to call a map that's been in place for the last 10 years "illegal," as Democrats have, and say the validity of the current districts has never been tested in court.   

Democrats also accuse Republicans of gerrymandering new district lines to buttress their legislative majority and dilute minority voting power. 

"This is about equity — not necessarily equality — but equity," said David Mejias, a Democratic member of the redistricting panel. "This is about undoing decades of systematic, institutional racism and segregation that occurred here on Long Island."

Republican commissioners defend their proposed map.

They say it comes closer than the Democrats' proposal to creating districts of equal size and complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory election practices.

Republicans said they were guided by 2021 amendments to the state municipal home rule law that established guidelines for creation of equal-sized districts that have contiguous territories and do not favor incumbents or deny racial minorities equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

The temporary redistricting commission has five members appointed by legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and five appointed by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

The nonvoting chairman, Frank X. Moroney, was appointed by Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

The commission conducted 10 public hearings throughout Nassau County beginning Aug. 31.

The panel released the competing Democratic and Republican maps on Nov. 10, and held a public hearing with more than 50 speakers in Mineola on Nov. 16.

There will be no public comment period at Monday night's meeting.

The Democrats' proposal would create five "majority-minority" districts in which Black, Latino and Asian voters comprise more than 50% of the electorate.

Among these districts would be one that is majority Asian.

Republicans, whose plan has four majority-minority districts, are disputing the Democrats' definition of an Asian district. Moroney did not explain further.

Daniel Magleby, a Democratic consultant who testified at the Nov. 16 hearing, called both the 2013 district maps and the new GOP proposal "an extreme partisan gerrymander."

"The problem with the 2013 map is that it does not count votes equally," said Magleby, a Binghamton University associate professor of political science.

"It underweights Democratic votes systematically. Moreover it excludes Democratic voters from an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing in a set of districts that are critical for determining which party will control the county legislature," Magleby said.

Michael Li, senior counsel for the nonprofit Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at NYU and an expert on redistricting, said a key task of redistricting is keeping together communities with common interests.

He cited the example of a California State Assembly district in the Los Angeles area where members of communities concerned about wildfires sought to stay together in a single district.

"The guiding light is that the maps respond to electoral shifts," Li told Newsday. "In our country today, it's the suburbs that are swing territory. Any place as suburban as Nassau County you would expect to be quintessentially swingy." 

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