On Wednesday, Sept. 21, I attended the public hearing on redistricting at the Hempstead Town Hall in Nassau County. This was one of the series of public hearings organized by the 10-person Nassau County Temporary District Advisory Commission, comprising six Republicans and four Democrats, charged with allowing access to the public to opine on the current legislative map adopted in 2013.
Democrats argue that the current map is gerrymandered to reflect extreme bias against Democratic voters and must be withdrawn.
In my opinion, critics of gerrymandering come alive depending on which of the two major political parties is in the driver’s seat, since it is an equal opportunity offender. Gerrymandering is the practice of setting boundaries of electoral districts to favor specific political interests within legislative bodies, often resulting in districts with convoluted, winding boundaries rather than compact areas. Political parties use it to their advantage and I believe that the only way to get rid of it is to have a national standard for the way districts are drawn: No More Partisan Gerrymandering.
Although speaker after speaker addressed the egregious aspects of the map, including veteran civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington, whom one committee member referred to as Long Island’s Thurgood Marshall, I was most impressed with a 29-year-old woman and the teenage grandson of consummate political activist Scotty Coates, who accompanied his grandmother to the podium.
The young lady, in her impassioned address, cautioned the committee members to be mindful of the fact that the outcome of what they are doing will affect members of her generation for years to come.
The young man is president of the youth branch of the NAACP. It is heartening for me because it serves as a ray of hope that our young people are woke and willing to step into the arena of civic engagement. It is also a timely reminder for us as adults to make room for them in terms of mentorship, encouragement and opening doors for them to make their contributions to society.
Lessons I hope were learnt from this exercise, are that we should pay attention and take seriously the liberties we are afforded; pay attention and participate in 10-year exercises like the Census—the data derived from it is a roadmap for redistricting; participate in the voting process—the victors appoint judges, board members to statutory bodies etc.; examine and understand what are included on election ballots—ballot proposals, and downline positions are also extremely important.
Finally, pay special attention to the candidates for Secretary State in the next general election.