Report highlights flaws in existing process and makes recommendations based on proven solutions
MINEOLA, NY — Today, the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition presented a landmark report on how to reform Nassau County’s broken redistricting process. Several dozen Nassau County residents from the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Common Cause New York, the League of Women of Voters, the NAACP, and other organizations gathered on the steps of the Nassau County Legislature today to release the report, which calls for reforms to the process of drawing legislative districts. The group then marched together into the Legislative Chamber where eight community members testified to the Legislature about the importance of reforming the redistricting process.
The report, titled “Voters First,” recommends a redistricting commission with increased independence from the Legislature, selected by lottery, with equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The report also calls for the Legislature to clarify the steps in the process to avoid the kind of two-year court battle that plagued the most recent redistricting process from 2011 to 2013.
“Nassau voters deserve a redistricting process that is designed for communities, not for gridlock. Our report details successful models across the state and country – with citizens leading a non-partisan, transparent, and effective process,” said Steve McFarland, Nassau County Organizer for the Long Island Civic Engagement Table. “We must fix what’s broken in our redistricting process. Nassau should become a national leader by implementing the reforms outlined in this report.”
“Common Cause/NY knows from experience that the only impediment to non-partisan redistricting is political, not practical. Nassau County deserves an electoral map which reflects its geographic, ethnic, and political diversity, not the political interest of elected officials. That’s why we’re committed to reforming the redistricting process to make sure that government for the people, remains by the people,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
“The League of Women Voters of Nassau County believes it is important that we look to the future…. That means dealing with the sections of the Nassau County charter on redistricting which contradict each other,” said Nancy Rosenthal, of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County. “We look to the Nassau County legislature to take the first steps toward reform to create a fair, transparent process with an independent redistricting commission.”
“The NAACP will continue to defend democracy by making sure that equal access at polls to and fair representation for all our communities,” said Scottie Coads, New York State Civic Engagement Chair for the NAACP.
“We’re committed to the fight for independent redistricting. We’re ready to fight for that, and for our communities,” said George Siberón, Executive Director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association.
“Every voter has a vital stake in the outcome of their community’s redistricting and must feel welcome to participate meaningfully in the process,” said Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Last year, that guarantee was threatened by a process infected with partisan gamesmanship and resulted in districts that fail to keep communities of interest intact and protect minority voting rights. This proposal is a significant step in ensuring that the interests of voters, not political parties or incumbents, drive the electoral process.”
Aubrey Phillips, Co-President of the Elmont Coordinating Council of Civics, said, “Partisan reapportionment has unarguably damaged Democracy by relegating voting to an inconsequential ‘patriotic’ and mostly reflective act. Independent reapportionment and sensible term limits for all elected offices is our democracy’s last hope.”
A recent poll by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, one of the Coalition’s lead members, showed 81% of Nassau County residents support a non-partisan, citizen-led process for drawing district lines.
The 2011 process began with the Legislature’s Republican majority drawing its own map. After an appeals court ruled that the Legislature had to form a Temporary District Advisory Commission as part of the redistricting process, the Legislature appointed a commission that could not agree on a map to recommend, and presented two maps to the Legislature: one favored by Republicans and one by Democrats. In the end, the legislature passed the map along a party-line vote, over the protests of community leaders.