Civil Rights Advocates Sue in Nassau County For Racial Vote Dilution

With 2024 elections around the corner, nationwide efforts to diminish the political power of communities of color are surging

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
February 8, 2024 9:00 am

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NASSAU COUNTY, N.Y. – The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Steptoe LLP today announced a lawsuit against Nassau County over the Legislature’s redistricting plan, which violates the landmark John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York (NYVRA) and the New York Municipal Home Rule Law by diluting the voting strength and political influence of Black, Latino, and Asian residents.

Though residents of color make up over one-third of Nassau County’s eligible voters, the current map — which the Legislature drew behind closed doors with minimal public transparency — only creates 4 districts out of 19 where Black, Latino, and Asian residents constitute a majority of eligible voters. This includes “cracking and packing”communities of color in places such as Lakeview, Freeport, Inwood, South Valley Stream, Elmont, Uniondale, and New Hyde Park.

“The Nassau County Legislature’s attempt to squash the electoral power of Black, Latino, and Asian voters speaks to growing, nationwide efforts to disenfranchise communities of color and gut legal protections for their voting rights,” said Perry Grossman, director of the Voting Rights Project at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “New York’s voting rights law is one of the strongest in the nation and we are utilizing every protection we secured to fight discrimination and ensure fair, equitable representation for all voters in Nassau County.”

“The redistricting map the Nassau County Legislature adopted divides Nassau County’s communities of color and undermines their ability to hold the Legislature accountable,” said Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We are suing because New York’s Voting Rights Act was precisely meant to deter and correct this kind of unfair dilution.”

“We are dismayed by the Nassau County Legislature redistricting map that systematically waters down the political strength of our Latino and communities of color,” said Cesar Ruiz, associate counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Efforts to dilute their voting power is simply inexcusable, and we will work to ensure them a fair map that also protects their voting rights.”

Nassau County’s Asian population rose almost 60 percent in the last decade but the map unnecessarily divides this large and fast-growing community, denying Asian voters the opportunity to influence the outcome of elections.

“The Nassau County Legislature has had ample opportunity to draw a fair and equitable map, yet it has chosen to stand by its egregious racial gerrymander in violation of multiple state laws,” said Ronak Patel, legal fellow at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “This suit will correct the Legislature’s failure and ensure that communities of color, including the rapidly growing Asian American community of Greater New Hyde Park, have an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process.”

A more representative map would include at least six districts where Black, Latino, and Asian residents constitute a majority of the citizen voting-age population, as well as a district that prevents the dilution of Asian voting influence.

As required under the NYVRA, the advocates gave statutory notice to the Legislature in December, providing it with the opportunity to voluntarily fix the NYVRA violations within 50 days. The Legislature has denied wrongdoing and refused to make any changes to the map.

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