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
Long Island Federation of Labor