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Durso: Redistricting Process Should Be Fair

A letter to the editor from the President of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

The following is from John R. Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor:

It is the bedrock of American democracy that every citizen's vote carries equal importance. Whether or not one's vote truly finds expression in the final count is largely impacted by redistricting, a process we go through every 10 years. While the subject typically fails to garner much public attention, insiders know there's a lot at stake. The way that voters are segregated into districts has an enormous influence on who our representatives are, and can ultimately shape public policies for the next decade.

Historically, the task of redrawing district lines has been left to the hands of the very politicians whose political futures will be impacted. Too often the process leads to partisan maneuvering, with the political will of the majority party controlling the process and determining the outcome.

Last year the Republican majority in Nassau County attempted to short-circuit the process and rush through their plan without public input. That plan would shift more than 570,000 or 44 percent of Nassau County's 1.3 million voters out of their home districts and break up established communities. It would ignore demographic changes and carve up minority communities diluting their vote. It would combine four Democratic districts into two, thereby eliminating two Democratic legislators. 

The New York Court of Appeals suspended the plan, stating that Republicans failed to follow the process as stipulated in the County Charter. According to the court, that process must include consideration of the recommendations of a commission with public input before adopting a final plan.

The back-and-forth legal battle has reached a new low with Republicans calling for a criminal investigation of the Democrats, who insisted on an independent, nonpartisan commission to redraw binding district lines before approving any borrowing requests.

For the first time in more than 100 years there is parity in the number of voters registered to both major parties in Nassau County. That would indicate that the redistricting process should be fair, not weighted heavily against either party. I urge the public to participate when the Redistricting Commission holds hearings in the coming months. It is not too late for the legislators to listen to the will of the voters and show us that they serve Nassau County citizens, not just their own self-interest.

John R. Durso

President

Long Island Federation of Labor

matteo May 09, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Gerrymandering is a very important election tool, which is easily misunderstood. That Mr. Durso heads a labor union does not dilute the bipartisan nature of his remarks. Neither Repubs nor Dems should control this process. Communities, whether by village lines, post office districts, school districts, etc, should be kept together as much as possible. Did you ever see the congressional district drawn for Ackerman? It makes the Blob look good, meandering form northern Queens along Nassau and Suffolk's north shores. It's a farce.
Nassau Taxpayer May 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Specifically, "re-drawn", as in map-tortured, which is one reason Ackerman decided to retire.
John Rennhack May 09, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Actually, the lines 10 years ago left a majority of districts with republican majority.
Chris Wendt May 09, 2012 at 04:49 PM
@ Matteo, re: "Communities, whether by village lines, post office districts, school districts, etc, should be kept together as much as possible." That is a nice or fanciful notion, but not very practical or even workable. Take a good look at Wantagh, Seaford and Levittown, for example. You will see a complete hodgepodge of ZIP Code lines, school district lines, and fire district lines. All three are unincorporated hamlets of the Town of Hempstead, so there are no "village lines" for any of them. Levittown sprawls from Wantagh and Seaford (including parts of both) up to Island Trees and Hicksville (and including parts of both of those). Some Wantagh students and some Seaford students attend schools in the Levittown School District. Two of the three fire houses serving Seaford are Wantagh Fire District houses, and one of those is in the Levittown school district. Wantagh has three fire houses that are not in the Wantagh School DIstrict. Some people, like me, think it is a good thing to have more representation rather than less...in Town Hall, over in the County Seat, up in the State Capital, and down in Washington. The political spoils system is inculacted in our way of life. Knowing this, voters need to take extra care when deciding which party to support, and for whom they cast their votes. One piece of advice would be to stop trying so hard to fight city hall, and instead participate in the political process (club) in your "village" or community.
Sean Hassett May 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Until we have a preferential voting system that can properly handle more than two candidates, we'll continue to have scoundrels from both Ds and Rs playing with district lines and keeping themselves in office to spend most of their time putting down the other instead of cooperating to get things done. Since these two parties also control how the votes are counted, I cannot ever see that changing, but given how advanced technology has become, it is inexcusable.

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