Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The state's highest court today overturned a lower court's ruling, negating new county legislature lines drawn by the Republican majority in Nassau county. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals this morning said the redistricting plan ran afoul of the county's charter requirements for a lengthier process that involved public review. The current lines will be used in the upcoming county legislature elections this November.
In a statement released this morning, Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs hailed the decision, calling the redistricting fight "an extreme waste of time."
"County Executive Mangano and Presiding Officer Schmitt are guilty yet again or overreaching and using their offices to simply retain power," Jacobs said in a statement. Later, on a conference call, he contrasted his party's actions with the legislative majority.
"They will put ethics aside and do whatever it takes to hold on to power at whatever cost," Jacobs said. "That’s not how we operate. And never have.”
The results of the 2010 census means political boundaries across the country are being redrawn. According to the court's decision, the Republicans failed to follow the county's charter which stipulates a three-step process that the county must follow before lines can be redrawn, including a bipartisan commission to review new lines and a public review of the plan. The Democrats charged the Nassau Republicans violated the charter by unanimously declaring new boundaries, and the court ruled in the Democrats' favor. According to the county charter, new boundaries must be drawn at least eight months before election in 2013.
Asked whether the ruling today could have any impact on statewide redistricting efforts, counsel for the Democrats said the decision would only pertain to Nassau County. Still, Jacobs said he saw the decision "sends a message across the state that this just isn’t something we ought to do.”
"I think this certainly supports the governor's agenda and the governor's position that partisan redistricting is a thing of the past," Jacobs said.
The Nassau County Republicans will likely appeal the decision at the Federal level. Calls to both the state and Nassau County Republican organizations were not returned.