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100,000 persons, one vote

While no one was watching over their shoulders — because the redistricting of Connecticut General Assembly seats is not a public discussion — four Republicans and four Democrats in the legislature redrew the elections map last month.

The result is one less House seat in eastern Connecticut. Reapportioning is based on the Census, which showed loss of population here but growth in Fairfield County. The number of local Senate seats, four out of the state total of 36, stayed the same.

Reapportioning is a constitutional mandate that states must meet once every 10 years, following the tallying of the Census. Each state carries out the task in its own way. While many states give control to the majority party as a sort of spoils of war, here we have the Connecticut way of reapportionment. Drawing the new boundaries is indeed a purely political process, with each side looking for advantages on Election Days for the next decade. When it comes to a vote, however, the sides are even, with a tie-breaker waiting in the wings if needed. The process encourages give-and-take, which is better than one-party gerrymandering.

Once done, reapportionment is just a fact of political life for the next 10 years. But the realities of the 2020 Census numbers mean that eastern Connecticut's hardworking delegation has to work even harder and be even louder to ensure this region's interests are heard.

Three tangible factors account for much of a region's bargaining clout in the legislature: having representation in the majority party, the overall number of votes from the area, and members' seniority.

The state Constitution provides for a Senate of 30 to 50 members and a House of Representatives of 125 to 225. For several Census cycles those have stood at 36 senatorial seats and 151 House seats. Reapportioners rarely act to increase or decrease the number of districts when population moves around in-state. Instead, they shift the boundaries around to come up with approximately even-sized districts. It works out to about 100,000 persons to one vote in the Senate and 23,880, more or less, to one vote in the House.

This year the commission drew some jagged district boundaries so as not to displace elected representatives mid-term. Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, eased that task by announcing he will retire from the General Assembly to run for the Second District congressional seat. His 42nd House District was cut/pasted over to Fairfield County and Ledyard was divvied up differently. 

Stamford, now the state's second-largest city after nearby Bridgeport, and also the fastest-growing, also got redistricted into three Senate seats. Eastern Connecticut's four Senate seats are currently held by two Republicans and two Democrats with relative seniority to flex. When the legislature takes up issues that might favor one region over another, the city of Stamford will have only one less hometown vote than all of southeastern Connecticut. That's the math.

The basis for all this is the number that Connecticut scored on the Census, a population of 3,605,944 divided into five congressional districts of roughly 721,188 persons apiece. The Reapportionment Commission was also supposed to have redrawn the congressional districts by the Nov. 30 deadline, but received Census data much later than usual and could not finish in time. Their work continues, but now under the supervision of the state Supreme Court.

News coverage from states with large numbers of Electoral College votes not surprisingly shows parties that are currently in the majority designing legislative districts to keep control of their statehouses. That's how gerrymandering works. Maybe the bipartisan Connecticut way would not succeed in a huge state with higher electoral stakes, but at least it strives to be even-handed. Fair enough.  

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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