The Elmont Memorial Library filled with nearly 75 residents Thursday, as they gathered to learn about the redistricting process in Nassau County and the newly announced plan to divide communities of interest, including the Elmont area. This area, with the region’s largest Haitian immigrant population, stands to lose power under the proposal.
The forum was jointly organized by the Elmont CCC, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table (LICET), and La Fuente-Long Island Civic Participation Project; LICET and La Fuente are members of the non-partisan Nassau United Redistricting Coalition.
Transparency is the first step to a fair process, said Daniel Altschuler, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table. “The message from voters across Nassau County has been loud and clear: give us a fair and transparent redistricting that keeps communities together. Nassau County legislators seem determined to sneak through a gerrymandered plan that dilutes African American, Latino, and immigrant voting power. We gathered Elmont residents to help people learn about what’s going on, how their communities are divided for partisan gain, and how they can take action. Without leadership from our elected officials, communities are taking matters into their own hands.”
Elmont CCC President Joyce Stowe a co-host of the forum, spoke of the effect of gerrymandering on civic life. “We are pleased to host this forum on redistricting. Elmont has been divided in so many ways it is mind-numbing. We have two or three politicians for almost every district and a zero when it comes to responsive government.”
Aubrey Phillips, of Elmont Online, called on attendees to take action to protect not just their vote, but the strength of the vote. “Entering the voting booth and registering your vote must have meaning. What has happened to us in Elmont is simply this – Our collective voice has been rendered meaningless. From school budget votes that require a super majorities to New York State Senator, the community’s collective will has been dismantled, replaced with the unimportant and collectively meaningless phrase ‘I can still vote.’”
“Democracy doesn’t seem to be a priority for the Presiding Officer and legislative majority, who are trying to shove through electoral maps that split Elmont in two,” said Mimi Pierre Johnson of New York Communities for Change and an Elmont resident. “Our community is vibrant, and we’ve shown we want to participate in the political process. The Republican plan divides us, making sure our voices will be drowned out. That might be good for a political party, but it’s bad for Elmont and bad for Nassau County. I’ll be at the legislature Monday morning to make our voices heard.”
“Despite repeated calls for transparency and accountability, the County Legislature continues to systematically disenfranchise Nassau voters from the redistricting process and contemptuously ignore them,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “The Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition is committed to shining light on the Legislature’s shameless abuse of the process by educating voters and demonstrating that there is no practical impediment to fair redistricting.”
Jason Starr, Nassau County Chapter Director for NYCLU, added “after a bounty of community input requesting transparency and openness in the redistricting process, the County Legislature released their proposed maps only yesterday. The Coalition is holding a series of community forums to provide an opportunity for the most affected residents to learn about the proposals and have their voice heard. We urge the members of the County Legislature to do the same.”
Another Nassau United Redistricting Coalition organization, LatinoJustice, commented, “The County Legislature’s minimalist approach to meeting constitutional duties in redistricting is beyond contempt at this late stage.” LatinoJustice Attorney Jackson Chin added, “It’s an affront that a map has only now been released for public review and no pre-vote public hearing date has been announced. ”
[Note: Article based substantially on materials supplied by LICET.]