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Facing Overwhelming Public Pressure from Nonpartisan Coalition and Civil Rights Groups, Legislature Delays Redistricting Vote (2-26-13)

Facing Overwhelming Public Pressure from Nonpartisan Coalition and Civil Rights Groups, Legislature Delays Redistricting Vote

Massive Public Opposition During All-Night Hearing Forces Nassau County Legislators to Take Time To Revise and Improve Map

MINEOLA, NY — Facing overwhelming public opposition from the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition, civil rights groups, and the public testimony of over 200 citizens in recent weeks, the Nassau County Legislature today postponed a final vote on the Republican majority’s redistricting plan after an eight-hour hearing on Redistricting that ran until nearly 1 AM. The proposed plan is a clear partisan and racial gerrymander designed to cripple democracy and pack the county’s Democrats and communities of color into only seven of nineteen districts.

Throughout the evening, the crowd spilled into a third holding room at the Nassau County Legislature, as residents gathered for the sole public hearing on the Republican majority’s redistricting plan. The final vote is expected next Monday, March 4th, one day before the deadline.

Partisan trench warfare and the fear of change engendered by communities of color who have fueled Nassau County’s population growth has displaced the practice of good government in Nassau County; the proposed redistricting map entrenches that division for the next decade. Brian Paul, Research & Policy Coordinator for Common Cause/NY, commented, “Nassau County faces serious challenges including recovery from Hurricane Sandy, and deteriorating infrastructure coupled with unsustainable finances and tax burdens. But instead of working together for the common good, the Legislature has hit a new low in dysfunction with this gerrymandered district map that divides communities across the county for partisan reasons. With one week for the legislature to make substantive changes, Nassau citizens demand that our leaders put the interest of the county ahead of the interests of political parties and redraw the map in response to public testimony.”

Lucía Gómez-Jiménez, Executive Director of La Fuente, testified for the Coalition and added, “it is obvious that the proposed maps have ignored public testimonies and basic redistricting principles. The Legislature has continued to ignore communities of interest and the voices that have spoken out in their defense. I am alarmed by the effects this map will have on our growing communities in the decade to come. The process has obviously failed to protect the voting rights of all residents of Nassau, and the legislature has one more week to do the right thing. We hope the Republican majority will show that this isn’t just a delay tactic and  revise this map to protect minority voting rights – allowing the public time to review their proposal.”

“We asked only that you postpone this vote today,” Nancy Rosenthal, co-president of the Nassau County Chapter of the League of Women Voters testified. “Although it took into the late hours of the morning, we are glad that you have seen the light. There is time to re-draw this map to prove that legislators have listened to all the people of Nassau County. Remember that you should not be picking your voters. Let the people of Nassau County choose their representatives every election day for the next ten years, beginning this November when each of your seats and the county executive position are up for re-election.”

Daniel Altschuler, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, said, “We welcome this final opportunity for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves and her caucus to develop a map that truly reflects the face of Nassau County. We see the growing communities of color in Nassau County as a source of strength and vibrancy; today’s cynical effort to rig elections shows that the majority in the legislature, meanwhile, fear these communities’ power. The Legislature must demonstrate good faith by making significant improvements to this map. If they use this week only to delay and duck the weight of public criticism, County Executive Mangano must veto the map.”

Jackson Chin, counsel for LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, added, “It’s truly astonishing how tone deaf the split County Legislature was; they were impassive and unresponsive in the face of a wholly unanimous tide of public testimony over nine hours to reject the troubled map. This was not the County’s best example of democracy, but they have one final week to turn things around. We will be watching and waiting.”

“The continued refusal of the County Legislature to listen to community voices and address the obvious partisan and racial gerrymandering in the proposed legislative map is unacceptable,” said Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The right to vote is the bedrock to our democracy, the current map deals a significant and lasting blow to our democratic foundation. Instead of stonewalling, I hope the legislature uses this final week to develop a map that seeks to build democratic participation, not dilute it.”

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