Appellate Judge Lifts Hold On Nassau District Lines Change


An appellate judge has lifted the order preventing the Nassau County Legislature from adopting new district lines.

Judge Joseph Covello late Thursday allowed the legislators to continue using the new lines as it plans this year’s elections, despite concerns by county Democrats in a lawsuit that the lines were drawn to favor the GOP majority. But the battle isn’t over yet.

"We’re going to argue the case before the full appellate division on Wednesday," said Jay Jacobs, chair of both the Nassau County and state Democratic committees. That’s only one day into the peition process beginning June 7 for candidates who want to be on the November ballot.

Legislators voted on May 24 to redraw its map of 19 districts, a move the Republican majority insists is immediately necessary because of census data that shows disparity in populations. But Democrats say the change should only be made after study by a bipartisan commission. If the Democrats delay the changes long enough, it will be impossible to implement the new map in time for petitions this month for November, when legislators face re-election.

Some fear the splitting of the 7th District, which contains all of the area known as the Five Towns, will break up a politically powerful voting bloc in the heavily Orthodox Jewish district, while other changes will weaken voting power of minorities in Elmont and the village of Hempstead.

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt says the body must act immediately because the 2nd District was found to have 10,000 more residents than adjoining districts. "You can’t go two years knowing you have a deviation in the population, which is unconstitutional," Schmitt told The Jewish Week last week.

After a three-hour debate, the new map was approved by a 10-8 vote. The Republicans control the Legislature by a 11-8 margin. Denise Ford of Long Beach, who runs on the GOP line but is a registered Democrat, opposed the plan, Newsday reported.

Republican Legislator Howard Kopel, a freshman who represents the 7th District, said in a published report that modifications to the original district map proposed by Schmitt made at his urging preserved much of the Five Towns community in his district with only a small portion of Woodmere and Hewlett being shifted to District 3.

Last month Kopel told The Jewish Week "I intend to fight for better lines in terms of the Orthodox community," while supporting the immediate plan to change the district lines.

Republicans argued that Jaeger should recuse himself because they say he made contributions to Democrats and represented the party as a lawyer 17 years ago. "If that is true than they better get out of the judicial system completely," Jacobs said on Friday. "Every judge is either a Republican or a Democrat."