The General Assembly’s nine-member bipartisan Reapportionment Committee has agreed on new boundaries for the state’s 151 House and 36 Senate seats.
This kind of reshuffling is a result of constitutionally mandated legislative redistricting based on population changes reported by the 2010 U.S. Census.
The state grew by nearly 5 percent since the last Census in 2002 to 3.5 million, so some House districts will now be smaller in geographic area but denser in population.
The new districts will first be used in the August 2012 primaries and the November 2012 state elections.
About the U.S. Congressional map
An amicable tenor of bipartisan cooperation quickly evaporated following the Wednesday (Nov. 30) Reapportionment Committee meeting when, after patting themselves on the back for drawing the lines for the House and Senate districts, Republicans and Democrats accused each other of political motivations when it came to the U.S. Congressional map.
And since the nine-member panel did not met its Wednesday deadline for one-third of its task, it now must ask for an extension from the state Supreme Court, possibly 30 days… but will this be enough time for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground?
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero released the proposed Republican Congressional map to reporters after Wednesday’s meeting adjourned, in response to criticism from Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney earlier in the week.
Rep. Cafero said both parties had promised to remain silent about the Congressional district maps until a vote.
While it is “unfortunate” the Democrats broke that promise, Rep. Cafero said, it is now necessary for the Republicans also to share their map in order to clarify their proposals and defend themselves against criticisms.
A bone of contention concerns the 4th and 5th Congressional districts.
Rep. Cafero said that by putting Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3th District, the Republican proposal honors a legal obligation to try to create a minority-influenced district.
“It will be the first minority-influenced district in the state of Connecticut and if you were at the public hearing as we all were, you heard over and over again, representatives of the minority community in this state saying ‘we deserve to have as many minority-influenced or as many minority-majority districts as possible,'” Rep. Cafero said.
GOP Party Chair Jerry Labriola, Jr. said he thinks combining Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3rd District balances many interests.
But, said Sen. Looney, taking Bridgeport out of the 4th District creates a district that no Democrat could win.
Sen. Looney contends that the 4th District, even with Bridgeport, is a competitive district, which was held by Republicans in three out of the last five elections until in 2008 a Democrat was elected, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the proposal his party drafted is not about drawing the lines for incumbents and individuals; it is about meeting constitutional obligations.
Five Congressional Districts compacted
The five Congressional Districts were compacted in the map Rep. Cafero produced, which he said achieves a zero-deviation from the required 714,819 residents.
Sen. President Donald Williams released the map Democrats proposed more than two weeks ago, which made far fewer changes to the current lines. The changes were mostly of minor shifts to account for population changes, he said.
“We do that because we believe that the Congressional Districts in the state of Connecticut are competitive,” Sen. Williams said.
He noted that Connecticut dropped down to five districts a decade ago and over the last 10 years, three out of the five have been won by Republicans.
Sen. Williams said Democrats feel it is their responsibility to balance the population shifts rather than make redistricting a political process.
Sen. Williams also said the Democrats’ proposal follows civil rights and communities-of-interest laws, while it appears the Republicans did the opposite.
“We should take a closer look at what they (Republicans) have done, to determine if (their) ultimate purpose… is to dilute the influence of minority populations in multiple Congressional Districts,” he said.
He said that by concentrating the minority population in one district, the Republican map may dilute minority influence in the rest of the state.
Only two more weeks?
Still, both sides seem to believe an agreement can be reached within the next couple weeks.
Rep. Cafero said that the committee has agreed on where to place 139 of the state’s 169 towns.
“We’re 82 percent in agreement and 18 percent disagreement. If the court gives us a couple weeks, to say that we can’t resolve 18 percent of the issue, I think is wrong,” he said.
The committee as originally constituted was supposed to complete its work in September. In October, it was reappointed with a ninth “tie-breaker” member, former lawmaker, Democrat Kevin Johnston of Pomfret,
However, Sen. McKinney reportedly has said it’s possible committee members could declare a stalemate on the congressional map and ask the Supreme Court to take over the task.
Editor’s Note: This story is a combination of reporting by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan and by Hugh McQuaid for CTNewsJunkie.com. Portions of McQuaid’s story are included with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com
To read McQuaid’s original story, click here
For maps showing the new district lines for State House and State Senate, click here
For maps showing shifts in race and ethnic populations in Connecticut based on the 2010 U.S. Census data, click here
Posted Dec. 2, 2011
Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to email@example.com and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. To keep up-to-date on local news, “like” us (HTNP News) on Facebook and follow us ( @HTNP) on Twitter!