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Wednesday is the new deadline for redrawing Connecticut’s congressional district map

The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford.
Danielle Wedderburn
The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford

The saga over the redrawing Connecticut's congressional district map continues. The state Supreme Court’s special master, who is in charge of considering competing partisan plans submitted by members of the redistricting commission, gave legislative leaders until noon Wednesday to resolve their differences.

The special master, Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily, has until January 18 to submit his report to the state Supreme Court, which took over the redistricting process last month. Persily tasked House Speaker Matt Ritter and Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly to figure out what to do about the state’s western shift in population over the past 10 years.

The biggest disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans is what to do about the makeup of the first and fifth congressional districts. District five includes large cities like Danbury and Waterbury, while the first district includes the state Capitol in Hartford and its surrounding cities.

“I am doing this around the country … you all are pretty close to each other,” Persily said during a public hearing on Monday. “If you cannot come up with a full plan that you could agree upon, I would ask whether there are sections of the plan you could agree upon.”

Once he submits his report next week, the court has until February 15 to decide on a final plan.

This isn’t the first time that Democrats and Republican members could not agree on a plan.

During the last redistricting process in 2011 when Connecticut lawmakers also couldn’t reach a deal on congressional district boundaries, the court appointed Persily as an expert on election law. Persily has previously taught law at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Last year, the state Supreme Court brought Persily back to help redraw the state’s congressional district lines after a legislative commission couldn’t reach a bipartisan agreement and missed its deadline in December.

“In developing the plan, the court has ordered me to modify the existing districts only to the extent reasonably necessary,” Persily said this week.

Republicans submitted yet another plan, which they said addresses gerrymandering in the state’s first congressional district. Kelly, the Senate minority leader, said Republicans have urged the court to consider maps based on traditional redistricting purposes, instead of a map with the least changes.

“When the ultimate goal is to have the least amount of change possible, the end result preserves the status quo,” Kelly said. “When the status quo includes gerrymandered districts as well as well recognized reduction in competition, the status quo cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.”

The Democrats’ brief said that the five congressional districts should each have a target population of over 721,000 with the data from the 2020 Census. The main challenge in keeping the districts equal would mean including more people into the underpopulated second district and removing people from the overpopulated fourth district.

With changing the population in the two districts, other changes were made in both plans for the other remaining districts. The Democrats said their proposed map moves district lines in four towns that are divided between two congressional districts. The Republicans proposed map would change the number of towns split between two districts from five to four.

“The goal of redistricting must be the protection and value of the core democratic principle of one person one vote,” Kelly said. “At the same time making sure that the voices of all communities of interest are not diminished through creative line drawing to equalize population that reduces political power by cutting those communities in parts or placing them in regions where they are unfamiliar.”

In both maps, Shelton is divided into districts three and four, Middletown is divided into districts three and one, Glastonbury is divided into districts two and one, and Prospect is divided into districts three and five. In the Republican map, Torrington would join the fifth district, instead of being divided with district one.

“By moving the fifth, as Senator Kelly had said, it would only make sense for that one section,” said Jay Case, a state representative of the 63rd House district, which Torrington is part of. “That would bring the small city of Torrington in with the larger city of Waterbury on that side of the state, where you would have two cities working together as they do in a lot of different things in state government.”

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.