The Rockland County Legislature unveiled two potential redistricting maps at their October 19 meeting as their months-long effort to fairly divide the county comes closer to an end.
According to Rockland’s bylaws, each of the county’s 17 districts should be even in size, as close as possible to 19,918 people. Due to an influx of about 28,000 people, roughly 8.5 percent, since district lines were last drawn in 2012, the county’s current voting districts are disparate, with District 1 containing about 17,000 people and District 17 with 24,000.
Districts 6 and 7 have also grown by about 20 percent, while Districts 1, 16 and 17 have shrunk by about 9 percent.
However, the population isn’t the only factor in play – the racial and political background of residents must be taken into account to prevent the dilution of the voting power of “communities of interest.” According to some political insiders, the county’s last districting effort heavily favored large Hassidic communities in Districts 8 in Hillcrest and 13 in Spring Valley, stifling the political voice away from the large minority communities that share those spaces.
According Phil Chonigman, the Co-executive Director of the NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, there has been an increase of over 35 percent in Rockland’s Hispanic population since district lines were last drawn. The County’s Asian population increased by about seven percent while most other demographic groups declined.
Currently, District 3 has the largest minority population and is made up of 64 percent Hispanics. Currently, that district is represented by white, Legislator Jay Hood Jr. (D). According to the Voting Rights Act, “minority opportunity districts” must be drawn so that they have at least 50 percent minority voting-age population.
The areas of Clarkstown, Orangetown and Ramapo – Districts 5, 11, 16 and 17 – are slightly altered between proposed redistricting map A and B. Ramapo is poised to gain a legislative seat in redistricting, while Orangetown will lose one due to a reduced population.
To view the two potential redistricting maps, visit https://rocklandgov.com/departments/county-legislature/redistricting/. Public comments regarding the plans can be lodged any time before 7:30 pm on November 1 by emailing [email protected]. The Rockland County Legislature will review these comments at their Tuesday, November 1 meeting.