Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE

Comparing the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition Plan with the Democratic Commissioners’ plan and the County Legislature Republican Majority’s Plan (Updated 2-14-13)

Comparing the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition Plan with the Democratic Commissioners’ plan and the County Legislature Republican Majority’s Plan
(Updated 2-14-13)

On Thursday January 3rd, Nassau County’s Temporary Districting Advisory Commission (TDAC) released two county legislature redistricting plans: one crafted by the Nassau Republican Party and approved by the Republican half of the commission, and one crafted by the Nassau Democratic Party and supported by the Democratic half of the commission.

Click here to compare the 3 plans and the current Nassau Legislative Districts in an interactive format thanks to the CUNY Graduate Center

Because the Commission was split 5-5 on partisan lines, neither plan was submitted to the Legislature as the official recommendation of the Commission. Instead, the two plans were sent to the Legislature alongside the non-partisan plan offered by the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition as part of a record of the Commission’s activities.

On Tuesday February 5th, the Republican Majority in the Nassau County Legislature released a revised redistricting plan with significant differences from the January 3rd Republican plan. This is the official proposal that is now before the Legislature. On Monday February 11th, the Rules Committee of the County Legislature approved the plan by a party-line vote of 4-3 – despite hours of testimony from dozens of Nassau constituents in opposition. Although the Democratic TDAC plan and the Coalition plan were referenced again and again by testifiers and Legislators, only the Republican Legislature plan was officially considered and voted upon.

Overall, the Democratic TDAC plan is a “least change” map that is extremely similar to the existing districts. In keeping the plan as close to the existing districts as possible, the Democratic TDAC plan forgoes opportunities to improve districts to better follow town and village lines and communities of interest. On the other hand, the Republican Legislature plan is an overt partisan gerrymander that disregards any attempt to follow objective criteria. While it sometimes follows village lines when expedient, the overriding is to follow the patterns of political party affiliation as it attempts to create as many favorable Republican districts as possible.

The Nassau United Reform Redistricting Plan offers a clear alternative to the partisan dysfunction and gerrymandering that has come to characterize the Legislature’s official process. Instead of treating Nassau voters as political pawns to be divided for the benefit of one party or the other, the Coalition plan begins with the existing Legislative districts and adjusts them based on the following traditional, objective redistricting criteria: equal population, the Voting Rights Act/fair representation of minority communities, respecting political subdivisions, respect for communities of interest, compactness and contiguity, and limiting the use of political data to gerrymander districts for partisan advantage.

As the final vote approaches on the Republican proposal, the Coalition plan demonstrates that there is no practical obstacle to starting over and drawing a fair plan that empowers communities, not politicians.

Coalition Plan V2 HIGH REZ

Feb 6 Republican Plan -- High Rez

Dem Commission Plan -- HIGH REZ

Equal Population

For redistricting maps at the state and local level, most courts have interpreted the “one person, one vote” requirement to be complied with so long as districts maintain populations within +/- 5% of the average or ideal population size. This is one criterion where there’s no room for differing interpretations — plans would likely not be considered legal if deviations ranged beyond +/-5%. All three plans analyzed here satisfy this standard.

Voting Rights/Fair Representation of Racial and Language Minorities

The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, and reauthorized in 2006, (“VRA”) provides strong legal protections for the rights of minority (racial and linguistic) groups to have a fair opportunity to elect their preferred candidates and to engage in the democratic process, which includes voter registration, fairness in election rules, access to the ballot and polling sites, and fairness in redistricting among other issues.

Any Nassau County Legislature redistricting plan must ensure that districts maintain the rights of minority (racial and linguistic) groups to have a fair opportunity to elect their preferred candidates and to engage in the democratic process. Nassau County legislative redistricting should reflect the strong growth in the County’s minority communities. From 2000 to 2010, the non-Hispanic white voting age population declined by nearly 9%. NH Black VAP rose by 17% while Hispanic VAP and NH Asian VAP rose even faster, increasingly by 49% and 68% respectively.

Based on the current 2010 Census data for Nassau County, the key minority districts are found in the current LD 1 (Uniondale-Roosevelt-Freeport), LD 2 (Lakeview, Hempstead, Westbury, New Cassel), LD 3 (Elmont, Valley Stream), LD 5 (Baldwin, Freeport), and LD 10 (Great Neck, Manhasset).

The current County Legislature plan has one non-Hispanic black majority district (LD 1), three non-Hispanic black influence districts (LDs, 2, 3, and 5), four Hispanic influence districts (LDs 1, 2, 3, and 5) and two non-Hispanic Asian influence districts (LDs 10 and 11).

The Democratic TDAC plan maintains these numbers of majority and influence districts, while the Republican TDAC plan maintains these numbers for black and Hispanics but concentrates the Asian community into a single influence district in LD 10.

 

Key Minority Districts: Plans Compared

LD 1

NHWhtVAP%

NHBlkVAP%

HispVAP%

NHAsnVAP%

LD 1 Current (2003) Plan

9%

53%

33%

2%

LD 1 Coalition Reform Plan 2.0

9%

54%

33%

2%

LD 1 Republican Leg. Plan

15%

51%

30%

2%

LD 1 Democratic TDAC Plan

10%

54%

33%

2%

 

LD 2

NHWhtVAP%

NHBlkVAP%

HispVAP%

NHAsnVAP%

LD 2 Current (2003) Plan

15%

42%

38%

3%

LD 2 Coalition Reform Plan 2.0

16%

40%

40%

2%

LD 2 Republican Leg. Plan

17%

43%

35%

3%

LD 2 Democratic TDAC Plan

16%

40%

39%

3%

 

LD 3

NHWhtVAP%

NHBlkVAP%

HispVAP%

NHAsnVAP%

LD 3 Current (2003) Plan

33%

35%

18%

11%

LD 3 Coalition Reform Plan 2.0

26%

40%

19%

12%

LD 3 Republican Leg. Plan

28%

38%

21%

11%

LD 3 Democratic TDAC Plan

33%

35%

18%

11%

 

LD 5

NHWhtVAP%

NHBlkVAP%

HispVAP%

NHAsnVAP%

LD 5 Current (2003) Plan

57%

19%

20%

3%

LD 5 Coalition Reform Plan 2.0

48%

24%

24%

3%

LD 14 Republican Leg. Plan

45%

23%

27%

3%

LD 5 Democratic TDAC Plan

54%

22%

19%

3%

 

LD 10 

NHWhtVAP%

NHBlkVAP%

HispVAP%

NHAsnVAP%

LD 10 Current (2003) Plan

74%

2%

6%

16%

LD 10 Coalition Reform Plan 2.0

69%

2%

6%

22%

LD 10 Republican Leg. Plan

69%

2%

6%

21%

LD 10 Democratic TDAC Plan

74%

2%

6%

16%

 

The Nassau United Redistricting Coalition Reform Plan maintains NH Black representation in LD 1 and LD 2 and significantly strengthens LD 3 compared to the current plan, the proposed Republican plan, and the Democratic TDAC plan. LD 5 becomes a new majority-minority district with the potential for a black-Hispanic coalition in Lakeview, Baldwin, and Freeport.

For Hispanic representation in Nassau, the Coalition plan maintains or strengthens Hispanic influence districts in LDs 1, 2, and 3 while strengthening Hispanic representation in LD 5. Importantly the Coalition plan keeps all of Central Freeport, the home of Nassau’s growing Dominican community, within LD 5.

And the Coalition plan strengthens Asian representation in LD 10 (Great Neck, North New Hyde Park Manhasset Hills) to a greater extent than any other plan, establishing and Asian influence district in the Nassau Legislature for the first time.

Overall, the Coalition plan offers significant improvements in minority representation compared to the current legislative districts, while also making sure districts also follow the other traditional redistricting criteria. This is a crucial point – minority rights to engage in county legislature elections can be respected and strengthened while drawing compact communities of interest.

Respect for Political Subdivisions

District lines should respect the borders of town, villages, and school districts, keeping residents with common interest together in a single district and helping facilitate a stronger relationship between local officials and their county-level representatives.

Nassau County’s current legislative lines do not seem to have been given a high degree of import for political subdivisions. In the North Shore, LDs 11 and 18 both cross between North Hempstead and Oyster Bay when the plan could easily have drawn only one such crossing. In the central Nassau County area of Levittown and Farmingdale, LDs 12, 14, and 17 all lines cross between Hempstead and Oyster Bay.

The Democratic TDAC plan, which stays very close to the arrangement of the current Legislative districts, maintains this arrangement of multiple town crossings. The plan also does not strongly respect village lines, dividing communities like Hempstead, Westbury, Bethpage, Jericho, and Floral Park.

Although it technically divides fewer “census designated places” than the current lines or Democratic TDAC plan, the plan proposed by the Republican Legislature is egregious in many respects to political subdivisions. 33 total census designated places (villages or unincorporated areas designated by the census as “places”) are broken into three or more pieces: Woodmere, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, Freeport, Hempstead, West Hempstead, East Meadow, and Hicksville.

The Republican plan pays little respect to town lines with a total of eight town line crossings – including four crossings between North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. School districts were not regarded at all by the Republican plan as 35 of the 44 unified school districts in Nassau are broken up by this plan.

Nearly all of the Republican plan’s disrespect for political subdivisions is due to decisions to draw lines for political purposes – as will be addressed in the last section of this analysis.

The Coalition plan also breaks 33 total “census designated places” but to look at this figure alone is highly misleading. Almost all of the “census designated places” broken in the Coalition plan are broken in order to keep unified school districts together. In many cases in Nassau, unified school district borders do not quite match the “census designated place” borders – for example, the Hewlett-Woodmere school district contains a few blocks of Lynbrook and vice versa. In cases such as these, the plan follows the school district boundary because local residents typically associate closer with the school district.

The Coalition plan breaks 21 unified school districts. It is unfortunately difficult to follow school district borders closer than this due to their size and the need for districts to be nearly equal in population.

Additionally, the Coalition plan crosses between towns only five times and divides only four “census designated places” between three or more districts: Oceanside, Rockville Centre, Freeport, and Levittown (however, Levittown is divided precisely along its school district borders).

Comparing Respect for
Political Subdivisions

Republican Leg. Plan

United Reform Plan 2.0

Town Crossings

8

5

Census Designated Places” divided

33

33

Census Designated Places” divided into 3 or more pieces

8

4

Unified School Districts divided

35

21

Communities of Interest

Respect for maintaining “communities of interest” is another traditional redistricting principle which is recognized in court decisions. A community of interest is generally defined as a local population with shared socio-economic characteristics, associations, and institutions that would benefit from unified representation by a single legislator.

Communities of interest in Nassau include areas like the Five Towns, Elmont-Valley Stream, the Massapequas, and the Great Neck peninsula. To Nassau residents, it is common sense to keep such areas together – they are clear geographic, social, and political units.

Let’s take a look at how the plans compare in their treatment in certain Nassau communities of interest.

Five Towns

Dems Plan -- Five Towns

Feb 6 Republican Plan -- Five Towns

Coaltion Plan -- Five Towns V2

Both the Democratic TDAC plan and the Coalition United Reform Plan create a definite “Five Towns” district, with the Coalition plan including the entire Hewlett-Woodmere school district and keeping Atlantic Beach in LD 4 along with the rest of the Long Beach barrier island.

The Republican plan is a stark contrast — the Five Towns area no longer has a core legislative district and is instead divided between four districts. Most of the villages in the area are chopped in half and Woodmere is chopped into four pieces. With the area broken up in this way, the Five Towns is essentially rendered insignificant in county-level politics.

Elmont-Valley Stream

 Feb 6 Republican Plan -- Elmont Valley Stream

About the author

GDPR