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Court battle delays Suffolk County redistricting efforts

Suffolk County Legislature
Suffolk County Legislature

Hours before the Suffolk County Legislature was set to pass a new redistricting map on Tuesday, a Suffolk Supreme Court judge blocked the legislature from "taking any action" on the plan until after a court hearing.

The plan would evenly divide the 18 legislative districts between Democratic and Republican support. It would also redraw district lines to double the number that are majority communities of color.

Republicans and a county attorney are challenging the Legislature’s plan in court because they allege it violates the county charter.

According to an opinion filed by Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Cohen, which was obtained by Newsday, the county has until Feb. 1, 2022, to finalize their restricting plans. At the beginning of the month, the state Appellate Court ruled the county could vote on the redistricting plan.

The charter requires a bipartisan commission of legislators to propose new districts and hold public hearings. Bipartisan legislative leaders missed their November deadline, so Democrats proceeded without them.

However, Republicans will take the majority in January. They said it's a last ditch attempt by Democrats to change the district map for the next decade. It received mixed reviews during the Legislature’s general meeting Tuesday.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, a Republican, spoke out against the measure.

“As a former member of this Legislature two different times, I can tell you that the Legislature has always worked in a nonpartisan way to try to resolve the issues facing Suffolk County,” he said. “I think this redistricting proposal is not one of those times. It seems to be extremely partisan.”

Nancy Goroff, who ran for congress as a Democrat in New York's First Congressional District in 2020, praised the redistricting plan.

“It honors community borders and keeps individual hamlet's intact; it provides four majority minority districts; it removes several egregious gerrymanders from the current maps; and it is balanced from a partisan point of view with the districts evenly split between Republicans and Democrats,” she said.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, the founder of Suffolk Progressives, told lawmakers that the map is “fair and equitable.”

“Just like the way I've pushed for things like increasing early voting, access in communities of color, we also need to increase access to representation in these communities, and this map does that and… it is fair,” she said. “Y'all can argue about the process and the procedure all you want, but at the end of the day, this map serves the people of Suffolk County.”

Leah is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.