For Immediate Release:
Contact: Susan Lerner
October 5, 2011
Redistricting Commission Comes to Suffolk Battleground
Common Cause NY calls for demographic driven process, not incumbent self-interest. Potential for Hispanic/Black majority-minority senate district
At the Suffolk County hearing of LATFOR (Legislative Task-Force on Research and Reapportionment), Common Cause NY urged legislators to keep communities of interest whole. In theory, redistricting is meant to reflect the demographic changes that occur in a decade and provide appropriate representation. But after last week's stunning revelation, reported by the Daily News's Bill Hammond, that Senate Republicans sought to "strengthen the Long Island delegation by combining politically undesirable areas...", the public must be rightfully skeptical. The two major trends in Suffolk County since the last census are the explosion of the Hispanic population, and division of school districts and villages.
"Redistricting should reflect the demographic reality of our communities. Fair and reasonable representation is the essence of our democracy, which is supposed to serve the interests of the people, not politicians," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause NY.
The 2010 demographic census data show a demographic contrast between Huntington-Smithtown and Babylon-Islip, and to a lesser extent, between the north and south halves of Brookhaven.
In the last decade Suffolk County has seen significant growth in the Latino (67.7%), Asian (46.7%), and Black (18.4%) populations primarily in Islip and Babylon. Hispanics now make up 14.9% of the total voting age population in Suffolk County, with Blacks 6.4%. As a result, it is possible in this redistricting cycle to draw a majority-minority district of Hispanics and Blacks. It is clear that one result of the current district maps is to divide the minority population of Suffolk county, reducing their voting power in the State Senate. As a result there is not a single Black or Hispanic Senator in the Long Island delegation.
However, whites no longer constitute a majority of the voting age population in the Babylon-Islip area, declining in population from 58.3% to 47.4%. More than half of all the Hispanic and Black voters in Suffolk County are clustered in a compact area within Babylon and Islip, yet this population is currently divided in three between Senate Districts 3, 4, and 8. If the Babylon and Islip districts were redrawn to appropriately represent communities of interest, it would create the potential for the minority community to elect a representative of their choice, perhaps a competitive minority candidate.
The lines between Senate Districts 3, 4, and 8 cut eleven school districts (Brentwood, Islip, East Islip, Connetquot, Sayville, Sachem, Wyandanch, West Babylon, Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville) and twelve villages (Islip, East Islip, Oakdale, West Sayville, Sayville, Holbrook, Bohemia , Wyandanch, West Babylon, Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville) as they gerrymander the towns of Islip and Babylon. In some cases, the senate lines divide school districts into 20/80, 30/70, and 40/60 proportions. In contrast, the Senate lines in the North Shore of Suffolk County in Senate District 1, result in school districts that are mostly whole or encompass at least 90% of a given school district, which may allow voters to organize more effectively.
Original maps with comprehensive demographic and statistical data for Suffolk County from the 2010 census are available on-line at:
Common Cause is a leader in redistricting reform around the nation. Common Cause California wrote and helped to pass the Voters First Initiative in California in 2008 which set up the first Citizens' Redistricting Commission in the U.S. which is currently in the process of drawing new political boundaries transparently and with public input. Common Cause Minnesota helped pass a referendum in Minneapolis that removes political parties from the redistricting process by having a judge appoint members of the redistricting commission. Common Cause strongly supported and helped pass the Fair Districts Florida initiatives in 2010 that set new rules for redrawing legislative and congressional lines which prohibit drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.
Office: Common Cause New York
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.