Barbara Epstein, co-chair of the League of Women Voters, said that sections of the county charter that address redistricting contradict each other, a problem that must be addressed. She agreed with McFarland that the redistricting process is broken, but she insisted that it is not beyond repair. “Our County Legislature can take the first step toward reform,” she said.
The coalition’s plan calls for a redistricting commission that would be one-third Republican and one-third Democratic. The rest of the commission, which the coalition recommended to be set at nine members, would be independents.
Lauren Corcoran-Doolin, a spokeswoman for the Democrats, said there were concerns among legislators as to how those independent members would be selected, but, she added, these are ideas that could be worked out as the process moved along. “It’s certainly nice to start the dialogue,” she said.
The coalition presented its proposal to the Legislature at its Jan. 27 meeting, with several members coming forward to urge legislators to give it a fair shake. Frank Moroney, who chaired last year’s redistricting commission, said it is an idea that warrants consideration.
“Nothing is perfect, and everything can be improved,” Moroney said of the current redistricting policy, adding that there needs to be a discussion of whether changes are necessary. Ultimately, he said, revisions to the county charter are policy judgments by the Legislature.
Moroney said that such changes are few and far between, and for that reason must be given much thought and consideration. That’s why, he said, it is good that the coalition is presenting its proposal years before the next round of redistricting will take place. “If there is going to be charter changes,” he said, “earlier is more beneficial.”
Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), the Legislature’s minority leader, said the coalition’s plan has merit, and that he was disappointed with last year’s redistricting process, which he described as rushed and failing to keep the people in mind.
“We’re definitely interested,” Abrahams said of the coalition’s plan. “Anything that gives the residents more of a voice, we’re going to be for. It would open the government to the people of Nassau County.”