A chance for bipartisanship lost

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The proposal splits some areas into multiple districts, such as Elmont (two) and the Five Towns (four). It puts three Democratic legislators together in one district along the South Shore, and another two together on the North Shore. It’s hard to believe that was unintentional. It does leave two Republican legislators in one district — though it is widely believed that one of them won’t be seeking re-election anyway.

The Democratic plan keeps existing districts largely intact while changing boundaries primarily in the center of the county to address the most drastic population shifts there. But it fails to unite some communities that have long been split into more than one district, such as Valley Stream, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, East Rockaway and West Hempstead. This plan could have done more to put communities back together.

Both plans are flawed, and any final product will be, too. But it would be a lot easier to accept a map that was put together in a bipartisan fashion, which could have and should have been done over the past two months.

At the lone public hearing after the respective proposals were released, on Jan. 3, commission members took public testimony again, with more than 60 residents and leaders getting up to speak. Most blasted the Republican plan.

The hearing showed how partisan this process was. The Democratic members said they were rebuked for their efforts to work with the other side. When it was time for the Republicans’ presentation, the chairman did it — the non-voting chairman, who is supposed to simply run the meetings. The five Republicans, asked by their Democratic counterparts to justify their map, mostly sat silent.

It seems clear that the neither Mangano nor the County Legislature gave the commission any direction to work together and at least try to create a bipartisan map. Instead, it seems that the commission was there mostly for show, simply to meet the mandate of the county charter and not to do any real, meaningful work on behalf of the people.

We hope this doesn’t lead to costly court challenges like the one in 2011, when Republicans tried to push through a gerrymandered map that was ultimately struck down by a court of appeals.

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