In a bipartisan 13-1 vote, the Rockland County Legislature adopted a local law that establishes new county legislative districts in response to the results of the 2020 Census, with the new districts each containing roughly the same number of people.
Prior to adoption of the new boundaries, the Census showed, the largest district contained 24,089 people while the smallest contained 17,324. Each of Rockland’s 17 county Legislative Districts will now contain about 19,918 people.
“The plan not only reflects the changes in population and the racial diversity that exists across Rockland but takes into account a community’s ability to elect the representative of their choice,” Rockland County Legislator Alden H. Wolfe said. “While no plan can ever be perfect, I hope people feel confident in the process that was undertaken and the resulting boundaries.”
Legislator Wolfe and Legislator Michael Grant co-chaired the Special Committee to Redistrict the Legislature in Accordance with the 2020 Census, which also included County Legislators Harriet D. Cornell, Toney L. Earl, Lon M. Hofstein, Douglas J. Jobson, John W. McGowan, Aney Paul, Philip Soskin, Vincent D. Tyer and Itamar J. Yeger.
The redistricting process included the hiring of a consultant to help create the new boundaries, a different consultant to advise the minority members of the County Legislature, a series of five public community forums in each of Rockland’s towns, five additional redistricting committee meetings, news releases, social media postings, livestreaming of meetings and forums, posting of the livestream videos publicly, news media coverage, and other efforts.
“The public input was a tremendous help in highlighting what the community considers important and I thank everyone who attended the forums, who asked questions and made suggestions, and who submitted written comments,” Legislator Michael Grant said. “The adopted plan has taken so much of what was suggested into account and has resulted in districts that reflect that valuable input.”
Rockland County Legislator Lon M. Hofstein said despite all the efforts that were made, it’s never possible to make every person happy when establishing new redistricting boundaries.
“The members of the redistricting committee did not have a blank slate as various rules limit where district lines may or may not be drawn,” Legislator Hofstein said. “Getting to this point with these maps was not an easy task. If a poll was taken of each and every sitting legislator, there is no doubt in my mind, each one would have changes they’d like to be considered.”
Despite the many difficulties, Rockland County Legislature Chairman Jay Hood Jr. said the new boundaries had successfully overcome many hurdles.
“It was no easy task to get here, but we have what I believe is a solid plan that will well serve the residents of Rockland County – all of our residents – for the next decade,” Legislator Hood said.
Among the goals accomplished by the new plan:
Narrow Population Deviation: Considered the highest ranked standard when conducting redistricting. Rockland’s new plan ranges from -0.94 percent below the ideal target of 19,918 per district to just +1.24 percent above the target. New York State law allows a much larger deviation of up to 5 percent.
Hispanic Minority District: Retains the existing Hispanic Minority District based in Haverstraw with 61 percent Hispanic Voting Age Population in District 3.
Minority Population In Spring Valley: Rebalances the minority population in Spring Valley to create two solidly minority districts. These districts provide opportunities for each of the county’s largest minority groups to effectively elect a candidate of their choosing.
▪District 8 with 42 percent non-Hispanic Black Voting Age Population and 32 percent Hispanic Voting Age Population. ▪District 14 with a Hispanic population plurality – 36 percent Hispanic Voting Age Population and 25 percent non-Hispanic Voting Age Population.
Communities Of Interest: Numerous communities of interest were identified by the public in comments to the Redistricting Committee, including the request that the people within the Suffern School District are a community of interest that needs a legislative district fully within the school district. This was done with the realignment of the District 12 boundary.
Fewer Districts Cross Town Boundaries: In the existing boundary map, nine legislative district cross town boundaries. In the new adopted plan, it has been reduced to 5 (Districts 2, 9, 10, 14, 17), with just one consisting of three towns (District 1)
Improves Overall Compactness: Plan B improves overall compactness vs. the current boundaries, with scores ranging from 2.9 percent to 7.5 percent.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.