Political Expert: Republicans Acting For Survival PurposesBy Jennifer McLogan

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s an issue that inflames sensitivities — and that’s exactly what’s happening in Nassau County.

A proposal to make sweeping changes to district boundaries has virtually everyone upset. As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, the decision will affect hundreds of thousands of voters.

Three hundred angry voters jammed Nassau’s public hearing on Monday demanding immediate changes in the county’s plan to carve up voting boundaries affecting most of the 19 legislative districts. Many called the proposal blatantly political — and racist.

“We are a community so divided. You have hurt us. For what? Political expediency? That is not acceptable,” Hempstead attorney Frederick Brewington said.

They questioned the speed with which the controversial redistricting plan was rushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature, less than a month after the release of the 2010 census which showed a surge of minorities who typically vote Democratic.

“Disillusion and dissolving our ability to make our vote count,” Roosevelt homeowner Diana Coleman said.

Republicans denied their map is a power grab, instead saying some current districts have grown too large, that this will more “fairly” reflect changing demographics.

“Something has to be done to correct the population deviations,” said Peter Schmitt, Nassau County’s presiding officer.

The plan would shift more than half a million residents, put four incumbent Democrats into two districts and split up recognizable geography — breaking the Five Towns, for instance, into “two-and-a half” towns.

“Playing with district lines every time there’s a census is a time-honored tradition for both parties,” political expert Lawrence Levy said.

But, Levy cautioned, this time redistricting stakes are higher for the GOP.

“For them this is existential. This is a matter of survival for the Republican Party,” Levy said.

A judge agreed with a Democratic challenge and temporarily blocked Monday’s vote on redistricting. A new hearing is now set for May 26.

Even if the court rules in favor of the Republican plan, it may not be in time for this year’s elections.

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