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Redistricting Proposals Discussed at North Merrick Civic

(Credit: Chris Boyle)
(Credit: Chris Boyle)
Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted by Chris Boyle. 

Legislative redistricting in Nassau County is something that has many residents talking, as the potential for some significant changes to the local political landscape are starting to take very real form.

The North and Central Merrick Civic Association invited several guest speakers to address residents Tuesday night on the ins-and-outs of redistricting and how the public can get involved in the process.

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“Any kind of legislature or congress that a state has, has to do this every 10 years,” said Brian Paul of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization. “It’s whenever there’s a new census. There are 19 legislators and the task is to divide the county into 19 equal pieces based on population.

He added that since populations change over the years, the districts must be changed as well. “They all must be within 5 percent of the average district population,” Paul said.

According to Paul, the average district in Nassau is comprised of 70,000 residents. The redistricting would mean that the county must be cut up into 19 districts containing approximately 70,000 residents apiece, give or take approximately 3-4,000 residents.

Paul went over the differences between the three redistricting maps currently on the table, each submitted by a distinctly different party to the Nassau Legislature — the Democratic map, the Republican map and an alternative, nonpartisan map recently submitted by the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition.

“The Democrats took the existing districts and tried to change as little as possible, legally speaking,” Paul said. “The Republican plan is pretty much an outright partisan gerrymander. They’re trying to get as many Republicans in the legislature as possible with this plan. There’s no attention paid to keeping logical community groupings together.”

“The Common Cause plan is to start with the existing districts, but try to improve them as much as possible based on town boundaries and community interests,” Paul added. “In plain English, common sense districts.”

The legislature must vote on the submitted redistricting maps by March 5.

Lauren Corcoran-Doolin, Executive Director of the Democratic Commissioners, said that Nassau County Democrats attempted to negotiate the formation of the new redistricting map with Nassau Republicans, but found them to be uncooperative.

“Republicans didn’t want to sit down with us,” she said. “Instead, they made this map that splits up the districts all over the place. When you, in your community, have been divided, you don’t have the same legislator that you used to and you really liked the way that they had served you.”

Republican commissioners were invited to speak at the meeting as well, but were unavailable to attend.

Merrick resident Morris Levine complained about the lack of public participation in the redistricting. Showing the frustration shared by many present at the meeting, Levine called upon the legislature to make the process more transparent.

“We should be able to vote on redistricting,” he said. “There should be a referendum, like when the public got to vote on rebuilding Nassau Coliseum. The legislature needs to get people more informed and involved since this situation affects us greatly.”

Reinaldo Nuñez, President of the North Bellmore Civic Association, agreed with Levine’s comments, and suggested getting the word out to residents before the March 5 vote.

“We have to find a way, such as the Internet, to reach out to the masses,” he said. “You’ve got to make noise, otherwise these decisions will be made for us.”

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