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NAACP Warns Islip Against Gerrymandering Voting Districts

Central Islip
United States Census Bureau
Central Islip

The NAACP on Long Island said it will consider filing another lawsuit against the Town of Islip over its plans to redistrict before the November election.

Town of Islip plans for redistricting.

Michael Pernick, redistricting attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Islip switched from an at-large voting system in favor of four newly drawn council districts. Pernick represented Latinx voters in a federal voting rights case that was settled in October.

“Town boards are elected on an at large basis, meaning every single voter in the town gets to vote for every candidate for the town board, but in some towns, they use individual districts,” he said during a recent forum on redistricting. Most Long Island towns have at-large voting systems.

Islip has proposed one district that would include Brentwood, North Bay Shore and part of Central Islip where most Latinx voters live. That could help ensure Latino representation on the town board.

“Roughly one third of the town is Latinx,” Pernick said. “But that community has never had any voice in their local government. Their candidates of choice generally were defeated, because they were in the minority and the majority of the voters in the town generally voted as a bloc to defeat the preferred candidates of the Latinx voters.”

But, the NAACP is concerned splitting Central Islip will now under represent Black voters in the November election. They accuse political leaders of wanting to keep Republicans in charge of the town council.

NAACP plans for redistricting in the Town of Islip.

“This cracking is designed to make permanent the power of the incumbent party in the town of Islip, to deny representation of choice to a large block of Black voters and those of similar interests,” Islip Town NAACP member Marvin Smith said during a meeting this week.

The group plans to submit their plans for resdistricting. A spokesperson for Town of Islip declined to comment. 

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.