Redistricting Commission Comes to Nassau Battleground
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Susan Lerner
October 27, 2011
Redistricting Commission Comes to Nassau Battleground
Common Cause NY calls for demographic driven process, not incumbent self-interest. Potential for Hispanic/Black majority-minority senate district
At the Nassau 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 a 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.
With more than 1.3 million residents packed into an area roughly 15 miles from east to west and 20 miles from north to south, Nassau County is one of the densest suburbs in the United States. The major trends in Nassau County since the last census are the:
Increase in the Hispanic, Black, and Asian populations, creating the potential for a majority-minority district anchored in the Town of Hempstead
Division of school districts along Assembly lines
“Redistricting should reflect the demographic reality of our communities. LATFOR must take into account the undeniable reality of minority growth, as well as other factors, which determine communities of interest, and adjust the electoral lines accordingly. Anything less undermines our democracy,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause NY.
In central Nassau within the towns of Hempstead and North Hempstead, there is a central cluster of villages which are overwhelmingly comprised of communities of color Black and/or Hispanic: Valley Stream, North Valley Stream, Elmont, Franklin Square, West Hempstead, Lakeview, Hempstead, Uniondale, East Garden City, Baldwin, Roosevelt, Freeport, Baldwin Harbor, Carle Place, Westbury, and New Cassel. Within this area, the voting-age population is now 68% minority, up from 57% minority a decade ago. Moreover, 81% of the non-Hispanic black voters and almost 50% of the Hispanic voting-age population in Nassau lives in this concentrated area. As a result, it is possible in this redistricting cycle to draw a majority-minority State Senate district within this area. It should be noted that these communities are not only distinct by race/ethnicity, but also by socio-economic status with regards to education, median income, homeownership, and type of occupation.
Overall in Nassau County, the non-Hispanic white voting-age population declined by 9% since 2000, while minority communities have grown tremendously. Led by 16% growth in the black voting-age population, 48% growth in the Hispanic voting-age population, and 68% growth in the Asian voting-age population, communities of color now account for almost one-third (32.5%) of Nassau’s voting-age population. But because district lines continue to be drawn with partisan political motives, there is not a single minority State Senator in the Long Island delegation. If the electoral lines around the Town of Hempstead were redrawn to appropriately represent communities of interest, it would create the opportunity for minority communities to fully participate in the democratic process and field a competitive candidate.
Original maps with comprehensive demographic and statistical data for Nassau County from the 2010 census are available on-line at:
In Congress, Nassau is divided between District 2 (Israel-D), District 3 (King-R), District 4 (McCarthy-D), and District 5 (Ackerman-D). District 3 (King-R) stands out as the only district in Nassau that crosses North-South rather than East-West. Since the North and South shores are demographically distinct, it makes sense to keep them whole. Similarly, District 5 extends far into Queens and includes Jackson Heights-Corona and downtown Flushing. These are the most densely urban, low-income, immigrant areas of the borough and it makes little sense to combine them with the wealthy suburbs of North Shore Nassau. Districts 2, 3, and 5 could be rearranged to solve these issues and keep the North Shore-South Shore division consistent.
In the Assembly, many of the Nassau districts ignore village and school district boundaries. District 18 (Hooper-D) is a majority-black district drawn in the working-class areas of central Hempstead as good government redistricting principles suggest it should be. But for some reason, large pieces of the villages and school districts of Uniondale and Roosevelt are carved out. The district also takes half of the village of Merrick, making District 19 (McDonaugh-R) non-contiguous with its section in Freeport. Similarly, District 13 (Lavine-D) forms a looping horseshoe around District 15 (Montesano-R), dividing numerous villages and schools districts. Demographics don’t point to any rationale for this shape. The Nassau Assembly lines could be cleaned up to conform to communities of interest and important local political boundaries.
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.