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State GOP, Skelos, Take Gerrymandering Hit

Critics argue that decade-old memo sheds light on Republican redistricting strategy.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was put on the defensive this week as Democrats sent around a document that they said shows the Republicans have only one thought in mind when it comes to redistricting: Will it help the GOP stay in the majority?

The memo, written on government paper, refers to parts of Long Island as "politically undesirable."

Mark Burgeson, who the Daily News said is still an analyst for the Legislative Task Force on Reapportionment, wrote the memo to Skelos nearly 10 years ago, when the Rockville Centre Republican was the task force chairman.

Burgeson writes about a few scenarios, including creating minority heavy districts and goes on to analyze whether it would help keep GOP incumbents entrenched in the Senate.

The memo became political fodder Tuesday when Bill Hammond of the Daily News wrote this:

This should have been a cut-and-dried decision driven by straightforwardly applying constitutional rules to head counts from the census. As the memo makes plain, however, the Senate GOP was eagerly manipulating the process for its own gain.

"The only reason to go to 63," Burgeson wrote, "is to strengthen the Long Island delegation by combining politically undesirable areas in the extra district."

Translation: If we can pack Latinos and blacks, who vote Democratic, into one district, it might make it easier for neighboring Republicans to get reelected.

A Skelos spokesman responded by saying "As we've said before, we're committed to a redistricting process that's bipartisan, transparent and fair." He would not respond to Daily News questions about the memo.

Tanii C. September 30, 2011 at 11:00 AM
Is this really surprising? keep the white with the white and not white, well who cares about them anyway. As for it being a 10 year old document, I pretty sure there is another one just like it floating around on someone's blackberry or talked about when "no one" is listening.
Chris Wendt September 30, 2011 at 11:29 AM
It is not nearly as black-and-white as you think. Redistricting is chiefly about voter registrations (party affiliation) and historical voting patterns and voter behavior. Also an important factor in the arrangement of districts is the 'behavior' of certain incumbents. Changing district lines has been used by majority party leadership to discipline 'poor' behavior or to reward 'good' behavior among sitting members of a legislative body. I am not declaring this a good or denouncing it as bad. I am just trying to explain it, the way it has been for at least 50 years that I am aware of. We need to at least understand how the system works, before we can successfully work within it or use it to any ideological advantage, or even to change how it may work in the future.
Tanii C. September 30, 2011 at 11:46 AM
I'll admit I don't know that much about the whole district creation process but it always seem to me (note TO ME) that rich predominately white neighborhoods have all the perks and do everything in their power to maintain that level while their neighbors one block away who aren't aren't as rich get the shaft. I know that rich people's money works hard for them but not all working poor (there is no middle class anymore) are lazy dirt bags that want bring down the value of home/school system. Maybe if they can work out a system where everyone benefits that would be better. I don't care republican/democrat but what is best for the people of long island, so that one block won't be the difference between "good and the bad" (Oh and I know I am over simplifying it but you know maybe we should be keeping things simple instead of turning everything into a Goldberg experiment) But I am interested in learning more about the district creation process i.e. why they are what they are preferably leaving out the party line aspect.
Chris Wendt October 01, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Several representative districts are subject to change. NOT subject to being changed are school districts, library districts, fire districts and boards of incorporated villages whose representatives are elected "at-large", meaning that all voters who live in the district vote on the same candidates. Also, US Senators, the Governor, and other state-wide offices are elected at-large, without separate "districts". Districts that are subject to being changed in response to population shifts reported by the Census include: - Town Council - County Legislature - State Assembly & Senate - US House of Representatives Some of these districts may cross town lines and even county lines. The Nassau Legislature is the most recently created body with districts created in response to a revision of the County Charter and a civil rights lawsuit. Federal and State laws as well as the US and State Constitutions plus case law decisions and the County and Township Charters dictate how, when, how often, and by whom districts must or may be changed. The basic guiding principle is one person, one vote, or relative equality in the number of voters each representative district must contain. Districts' boundaries change when census data show a new district must be created, an existing district must be eliminated, or that the voting-age population balance among existing districts has changed. All redistricting involves the operation of the political process and majority rule.
Chris Wendt October 01, 2011 at 01:03 AM
On the issue of race, de-facto neighborhood segregation existed on Long Island up until the mid 1960's which saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later landmark legislation including the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As late as 1970 there were codicils on many land deeds in Nassau County which "prohibited the sale of the property to anyone not of the white race". The original deed to the home we purchased carried that restriction until a new deed was issued in our name in 1970. Although Wantagh is today a majority white hamlet (unincorporated area of the Town of Hempstead), some of its earliest settlers were black, and two landmarked cemeteries in Wantagh are the burial grounds of the members of two of Wantagh's original families who were black. After the civil rights laws of the 1960's began to take effect, some of the ingrained separation of people based on color began to change, slowly, and to a degree which then became self-limited by people becoming more content with where they were living, but also, because of the steep economic barrier to moving into preexisting school districts and even neighborhoods within some school districts which by then happened to be mostly white because of those old "traditions" and deed restrictions. High property taxes were understood to have the ongoing effect of 'maintaining the character' of many neighborhoods by discouraging or disqualifying less affluent people from moving in.

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