State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister will approve the final...

State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister will approve the final version of the legislative maps. Credit: AP/Vaughn Golden

More than 300 miles from Long Island, in upstate Steuben County, the court-appointed special master for redistricting, Jonathan Cervas, has just about finished his job reversing the State Legislature’s blatant partisan twist of new district maps for New York’s 26 seats in Congress and 63 seats in the State Senate.

It has been a titanic and chaotic process, born of the dismal designs in Democratic-dominated Albany that first state Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister, and ultimately the Court of Appeals, found violated the state constitution’s explicit ban on gerrymandering and rules for independent redistricting. 

Under McAllister’s aegis, Cervas properly corrected such proposed contrivances as a five-county Suffolk-to-Westchester 3rd Congressional District with its center in Long Island Sound. And for Nassau residents further south, it was a relief to see that the 9th Senate District won’t be chopped up to purposely displace a number of Five Towns residents across the border into Queens. Even at a glance, these maps look more condensed and logical.

But that doesn’t mean these lines are entirely just, or that they repair serious flaws in the status quo, particularly in the State Senate, where a longtime Republican majority shaped the existing districts. The Democratic lines were recently rejected for good reason, but the special master's drafts kills those maps’ best local feature — uniting the representation of communities of color in Nassau and Suffolk.

McAllister and Cervas should correct this while there is still a bit of time left. It’s now an emergency because public comment to the court is due on Wednesday. Under the expedited schedule pushing the Senate and House primaries back to Aug. 23 from the previously slated June 28, McAllister is due to authorize and issue the final version of the maps on Friday.

Chief areas of longtime concern are Elmont in Nassau County and Brentwood-Central Islip in Suffolk County. Latino communities of interest remain divided in the special master’s rendition of the 3rd SD. And in Elmont, changes to the 7th SD have kept divided what is a Haitian American and African American stronghold. Complications involve the use of Hempstead Turnpike as a border. Both the Sewanhaka Central High School District and Elmont Union Free School District are divided into two different Senate districts.

 That's progress denied.

Anyone who listened to the extensive public hearings conducted last year by the Independent Redistricting Commission heard community witnesses make the case for the district consolidation of largely Hispanic communities in Central Islip and Brentwood and for ending the multiway map-cracking of Elmont.

Sustaining old gerrymanders to erase new ones — or just failing to keep up with demographic change — doesn't make for fairness.

It may not be the court's fault, but events do make McAllister responsible for the final product. Some very fast and precise course correction is urgently needed as deadlines near.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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