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Move to block Hempstead district map denied

The Hempstead Town board listens to speakers during

The Hempstead Town board listens to speakers during redistricting public hearing. (April 9, 2013) Credit: Aisha Al-Muslim

A federal judge Tuesday denied a request for a temporary restraining order by four Hempstead residents seeking to block the town from implementing its new council district map.

The plaintiffs, all Democrats, contend the redistricting map adopted on April 9 by the GOP-led town board violates the voting rights of African-Americans and Hispanics, dilutes their voting power and fails to create a second majority-minority district. Justice Leonard D. Wexler ordered the parties back for a May 14 hearing.

"We wanted an expedited hearing on this matter and that's what we got," Manhattan lawyer Gary Carlton, representing the plaintiffs pro bono, said after the Central Islip hearing.

The plaintiffs -- Dennis Jones of Hempstead Village, Milagros Vicente of North Valley Stream, and Hermione Mimi Pierre Johnson and Monique Hardial, both of Elmont -- filed a lawsuit last week against the town, the state Board of Elections, and the Nassau County Board of Elections and its two commissioners.

The four are asking the court to declare the redistricting plan a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They also seek to prevent the town from implementing the plan before the election petitioning process begins in early June. They want the court to order the town to redraw the district lines with help from a special master and direct the town to pay associated costs.

The new map, which will set voting districts for America's largest township for the next decade, maintains one majority-minority district, in which minorities are a majority of the population. The Democratic-drawn version had two such districts, as did the proposal from the League of Women Voters.

Town spokesman Michael Deery said the town board conducted the redistricting process in a bipartisan manner and met all legal requirements.

"Despite the fact that we have three Nassau County minority districts that are all in the Town of Hempstead, the town has failed to follow suit," Nassau Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said. Louis G. Savinetti, Nassau GOP elections commissioner, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general, who is representing the state Board of Elections, also declined to comment.

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