Judge set to rule after hearing pros, cons on equity of Rockland’s election district map

“Ramapo activist Michael Parietti and an attorney representing the county butted heads on Wednesday about the validity of Parietti’s lawsuit seeking to void the county’s redistricting map.

Robert A. Spolzino, a lawyer for the county, urged the state judge to dismiss Parietti’s lawsuit. He argued Parietti lacked standing to take legal action representing other citizens, his claims didn’t meet state laws, and he offered mostly opinion and speculation without empirical evidence.

Parietti, representing himself, argued the county’s redistricting map was illegal and was more political than providing equity to voters. He argued the map disenfranchised non-white voters, boosted the chances of incumbents winning re-election and further empowered the Orthodox-Hasidic Jewish communities to decide who sits on the 17-member Legislature.

Supreme Court Justice Sherri Eisenpress listened for nearly an hour and said she would release a decision shortly. She didn’t specify when her ruling would come down and gave no hints about her thinking.

Redistricting: Lawsuit challenges Rockland voting districts, claims plan benefits officials, bloc vote

Election map: Description of new election boundaries for the next decade

Rockland approves: Rockland Legislature adopts new districts.

Redistricting map disenfranchises voter, critics contend

The map was approved by the Legislature in November, with Charles Falciglia as the one dissenter, and later signed by County Executive Ed Day. The map essentially maintains the status quo for the governing body’s 10 Democrats and seven Republicans. The new district lines will be used beginning January 2024, with legislators up for election in November. Parietti and other critics, such as NAACP leaders, argued the adopted map has flaws for many voters and that the increasing population of the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities could change the balance for non-white voters, especially in districts designed to represent people living in Spring Valley, Hillcrest, and parts of Nanuet.

Spolzino told Eisenpress that Parietti failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his claims of disenfranchisement or other citizens getting an advantage. He also argued that Parietti lacked standing to represent the interests of non-white communities and other voters living in districts other than his own, a district that includes Stony Point.Legislators draw the map, not the court, Spolzino said, telling Eisenpress that the “reality of legislative redistricting is there are no perfect solutions.”

“There are already two minority districts,” Spolzino said. “His central claim that the map was drawn to advantage the Orthodox Jewish community may or may not be true. And it doesn’t matter. The basic principle is you don’t have standing to raise someone else’s rights.

He’s not harmed” if in fact people of color are disenfranchised or another group gets an advantage, Spolzino said.

Parietti passionately disagreed, telling Eisenpress if one group of people is being disenfranchised by the election boundaries, he and the entire county are affected. He said his legal action provides evidence such as the map boundaries splitting by common communities and census population. He argued that elections results show the candidate who gets the Hasidic vote wins the election and that districts were drawn to deprive groups of equal opportunities.Some boundary changes in the approved map, critics have argued, include splitting up the non-white areas of Spring Valley and Hillcrest. The map also creates a district in Ramapo’s southern tier of Chestnut Ridge and Airmont, where Orthodox and Hasidic communities are among the fastest-growing communities across Rockland.

Parietti said Spring Valley and Hillcrest have common interests, with one district including the Hasidic village of New Square. He also has said other communities with commonalities, such as Pearl River, were divided in half and placed in two different districts. He said the Nyack area has been sliced into three districts. The redistricting map is based on the 2020 census populations. Every 10 years with the census, governments are required to redraw lines with balanced districts to meet the Constitution’s mandate of one person, one vote.

Eudson Francious, a former Spring Valley trustee and a supporter of Parietti’s suit, told the Journal News/lohud the splitting of the village will hurt residents seeking government representation. He said he was affected by the state redistricting when he ran for the Assembly in November. He said thousands of Spring Valley’s voters were gerrymandered out of the district and he fears the same will happen if the county map holds.

Micheal Miller, a leader of the group Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhood, from Hillcrest, told the Journal News/lohud the law essentially advocated for keeping communities together. He cited the racial commonality of Spring Valley Hillcrest, and parts of Nanuet. He said the community should be one district, not divided and merged with Monsey neighborhoods. He said if Eisenpress ruled against Parietti, “I’d be totally flabbergasted.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.