WASHINGTON, D.C. — Long Island voters have filed a New York Voting Rights Act challenge to the Nassau County Legislature’s map, marking the second lawsuit brought under the new state-level voting rights act.
Signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in June 2022, the New York Voting Rights Act (NYVRA) created a “preclearance” procedure that requires certain jurisdictions with histories of discriminatory voting practices to get approval from the state attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau before new changes go into effect. Additionally, the NYVRA outlines legal tools and remedies for individuals to fight against discrimination in court if the right to vote for protected groups is violated.
The new lawsuit brought by New York Communities for Change — a nonprofit community organization — and four Latino voters alleges that the new map for the Nassau County Legislature “unnecessarily ‘cracks’ and ‘packs’ Nassau County’s communities of color” which inhibits their ability to have a representative government. The Nassau County Legislature is the legislative arm of the county’s government that is tasked with drafting local rules, laws and ordinances as well as passing the county’s budget.
Black, Latino and Asian residents constitute almost one-half of Nassau County’s total population and over one-third of its eligible voters, but the current map provides only four districts out of 19 where voters of color constitute a majority. The lawsuit argues that voters of color should have the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice in six districts and that the current map violates the NYVRA.
The complaint outlines the county’s long history of discrimination in voting and highlights that candidates of color are seldom elected in Nassau County, a suburban county on Long Island located just to the east of New York City. According to the lawsuit, there are no Latino representatives in the Legislature, an Asian resident has never been elected to the Legislature and “No Black, Latino, or Asian candidate has ever been elected to the office of County Executive, County Comptroller, County Clerk, or District Attorney in Nassau County.”
The plaintiffs ask the court to block the county’s current map and enact a new map that complies with the NYVRA. This is the second lawsuit brought under the NYVRA. Last month, Hispanic voters from another New York City suburb — in Mount Pleasant, New York — filed the first lawsuit under the NYVRA challenging Mount Pleasant’s at-large system for electing members to the town board.