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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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Deadlocked: Brookhaven Redistricting is Thrown to Town Council

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After a contentious redistricting process, the Brookhaven Reapportionment Committee for Brookhaven has now blown past its deadline to approve a new map. The process now goes to the Brookhaven Town Council, supervised by Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). The process looks to redraw the Brookhaven Town Council map adherent to the results of the 2020 Census.

Main sources of contention included splitting hamlets, breaking up or preserving minority communities, compactness, and making as few changes as possible, all while keeping the districts roughly equal in population. Several public hearings were held, at which point some citizens presented their own maps for consideration.

Ultimately, however, no map received the necessary six votes in order to be approved. The Democratic and Republican members of the commissions were mostly split by the bipartisan lean on the maps.

Commission Co-Chair Ali Nazir offered insight into what went down during the hearings. One map that drew attention was that of Coram resident Logan Mazer. The map was presented as one of the “least change;” however, Nazir disagrees:

“That name is misleading and was given to the map by Mr. Mazer, a Brookhaven Democratic operative who is currently a sophomore in college and has no experience in the field of reapportionment.”

Nazir also cites some of the difficulties of redistricting, a process which is often described as a “balancing act” of various fairness metrics, some of which were absent from Mazer’s map:

“Deviation is one of the most important measures by which you draw districts. When the deviation is small, it means the districts are almost equal in size. Equal in size means equal in representation. I am proud that unlike Mr. Mazer’s map, which had a deviation of 4.23% (barely below the legal limit of 5%), Prop 2 Rev A13 had a deviation of 0.13% or almost exactly equal.”

Proposal 2 received five votes from the committee, the most the other maps received. However, it was still one short of the six votes needed for approval. All three Democratic members of the committee voted against it. Mazer’s map was downvoted 5-3, with all Democratic members in favor.

Nazir also says that the non-partisan mapmaker selected for the process, David Schaefer, said that Mazer’s map made “unnecessary” changes, which Nazir says “raises the question if those movements were done so for partisan purposes.”

Redistricting nationwide is often a hot-button issue, mainly due to the increasing claims of partisanship and gerrymandering. Some states, like Colorado and Washington, have independent – or in some cases, bipartisan – commissions that handle redistricting. Proponents argue that these commissions keep the maps fair and balanced, while critics claim they prevent the state from being accurately represented, even in terms of partisanship. Of the Brookhaven bipartisan commission, Nazir states:

“The Committee members worked to ensure that integrity and transparency was a core of the Committee…Unfortunately, the Democratic Caucus members chose to immediately make politics of the entire process. From the start, they declared and formed themselves into a caucus instead of attempting to work collaboratively with the other members. They further inflamed the process when they got a sitting Democratic Town Councilman to attend the hearings and attempt to bully us into making changes that would reflect his personal desires.”