Public Hearing Tonight on Legislative Districts

by LonSeidman

Waterbury has five state representatives. The 73rd extends from Bucks Hill to Bunker Hill, but the 72nd wraps around it


What do you think of the picture to the side? Does it look like a child scrawled lines this way and that in a random fashion? Or do you think it is a fair representation of how Connecticut should be represented in Congress?

Because of the 2010 Census, the lines of Connecticut’s 5 Congressional, 36 State Senatorial, and 151 State Legislative districts are at stake.

Congressional Districts

Connecticut's five Congressional Districts could become a pretty good jigsaw puzzle, particularly near the center

Tonight you can give your opinion at Waterbury City Hall at 7 pm in a public hearing which will include an equally bipartisan group of legislators will draw the fate of Connecticut politics for the next decade. According to the Constitution, re apportionment must be undertaken by the states to ensure fair and equal representation in Congress. A similar obligation exists under the State Constitution for state offices. The result of what ‘fair’ is, however… has been disputed for over 200 years. Generally it means that a roughly equal number of citizens are represented by any one legislator. In Connecticut, they’ve come pretty close, with no district being represented by more than 3 people more than any other.

The group of legislators – five Republicans and five Democrats – will be present at the hearing tonight to hear input. Because the Commission is equally divided, a vote from one or the other side is required to send the new maps to the legislature for approval. It also makes it more likely that the two sides will agree to the outcome. Of course, in politics, that doesn’t mean everything is settled.

Some ideas talked about have been moving the Farmington Valley from the 5th Congressional District to the 1st. In return, Bristol and possibly Southington and other towns would move to the 5th. Other commentators, including Susan Bigelow

Could this be the new map legislators would adopt? Courtesy: CTNewsJunkie, Susan Bigelow

have offered their own maps for consideration. At stake is also the State Senate and House of Representative apportionments. You may view both of those maps here.

The 133rd legislative district snakes through central Fairfield and includes a similar shape in Westport. It is represented by Rep. Kim Fawcett, a Democrat

Tonight you can have your say at a public hearingAt issue may be whether the current maps divide up too many towns. For instance, the south end of Waterbury is represented by Rosa DeLauro from New Haven. Some residents may complain that their legislator knows little about Waterbury to relate to them. That district also includes only a portion of Middletown which is split with John Larson. Similar complaints are heard from Torrington. The downtown portion of that city is in the 5th Congressional District while the rural portion – and towns around it are in the 1st.

It wasn’t always this way. Ten years ago the maps were re-drawn – and in this funny manner – because Connecticut lost the right to have six Congressional representatives. Each of the six planned on keeping their seats, but inevitably that meant pitting two of them against each other. It turned out that Republican Nancy Johnson from New Britain would battle Democrat Jim Maloney from Danbury. Both were from opposite sides of the district. Politicians from both parties drew what at the time was deemed a fairly evenly matched district. Yet, with a funny shape. Bristol and Southington remained in the 1st District, while a majority of their neighbors went to the 5th.

Since the first map drawing, there has always been controversy. A legislative district in Massachusetts touched off the first gerrymeandered court case. The district on paper looked like a snake to include desireable and exclude undesireable areas of the new state at the time. Other cases, including one in Illinois which was narrowly drawn along an unpopulated interstate highway to connect two hispanic areas- to enforce views of affirmative action or assist an incumbent in keeping their seat. Power of course, is behind these attempts.

Politics sometimes drive the formation of districts. The 1st Congressional is often believed to lean heavily towards Democrats. Courtesy: CTLocalPolitics.net

Such actions are still employed more or less. In some cities, lines are drawn to dilute Republican influence, and in some more rural areas the same is done to dilute Democratic or other influences. The Whisper doesn’t imply that this is the case in Connecticut, but there are opinions that it is. Certain districts, such as a legislative district in Fairfield looks curious. The 72nd and 73rd District -who’s boundaries bisect the roads of a very large circular area in the Bucks Hill neighborhood – look curious. And the result is confusion to voters on who their legislator is. Neighbors livin directly across from each other have different legislators.

Sometimes candidates for office even become confused if they have the even or odd side of a street. Perhaps, in a place like Bucks Hill it promotes stronger representation in Hartford for a single neighborhood. Or, perhaps its a legal way to tamper with the ideaology of a representative.

What do you think of these maps?

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