Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00
A typical response to criticism is “If you don’t like it, let’s see you do better.” Members of the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition did just that: they didn’t like the map that the Republican members of the redistricting advisory commission drew for the county at all, so they decided to create their own. Furthermore, unlike the commission, which had a budget of $500,000, they did it with nothing.
“With no money in our budget, we have come up with a better map— an incredible map that involves listening to the community, listening to the vast numbers of residents that showed up to the public hearings, which the commission, oddly, ignored,” said Jackson Chin for LatinoJustice, a member organization of the coalition.
At a press conference held on the steps of the Legislative Building on Monday, Jan. 14, Chin and other speakers presented the coalition’s own non-partisan map, and spoke about the importance of working toward fair redistricting. After the press conference, they formally presented the map to the county legislature.
This comes on the heels of the official redistricting advisory commission’s failure to produce a map both sides could agree on. While the Republican-led legislature will likely consider the map put forward by the Republican members of the commission for implementation, speakers at the press conference made it clear that they did not consider a map created by one side of the aisle to be an acceptable solution.
“We are extremely disappointed in the commission’s inability to work together to have one map,” said Barbara Epstein, Redistricting Co-Chair for the Nassau County Chapter of the League of Women Voters, going on to urge the legislature to adopt the coalition’s non-partisan map, with modifications if necessary.
Furthermore, in addition to concerns that the Republican map was drawn without input from the minority party, many believe the map is unconstitutional, since it splits many traditional communities of interest like Great Neck and the Five Towns.
“One of the things that we have to understand is that what has been proposed by the Republicans on the commission moves over half of the population of Nassau County into different districts and attempts to try to separate brother from brother and sister from sister,” said Fred Brewington, a civil rights lawyer who has made it abundantly clear that he is prepared to sue the legislature if they adopt the Republican map. “The whole point of redistricting is to be fair. What has happened thus far is completely unfair, but more so, it is insidious.”
“You know they are trying to dilute the voice of the people and we will not stand for it anymore,” added Mimi Pierre Johnson from New York Communities for Change, an Elmont resident.
Later, at the legislative meeting, it was Brian Paul from Common Cause NY who presented the new map on behalf of the coalition, stating that it “offers a clear alternative to the partisan dysfunction and gerrymandering that has come to characterize the legislators official process.” Paul also read a list of demands to the legislature, including the stipulation that the legislature must release its proposed redistricting plan to the public no later than Jan. 25 (one month before the next scheduled public legislative session), and that at least four public hearings must be held during the following two weeks.
There was no specific discussion of the coalition’s map during the session, but Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams agreed with the commission on the subject of public hearings, stating that the legislature should hold as many as possible.
“If we owe the public anything, we owe them that,” Abrahams said.
The Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition includes Common Cause/NY, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, La Fuente Long Island Civic Participation Project, the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, and the New York Civil Liberties Union of Nassau County. To view the data used to create the coalition’s map, visit www.nassauunited redistricting.org.