REDISTRICTING HEADED TO UNCHARTERED TERRITORY

The nine-member commission charged with redrawing the lines for Connecticut’s congressional district is heading into an area where the state has not been before, according to a former capitol insider who was instrumental in the process in 2001. Yes, other reapportionment panels have had to go to court to get its job done but not with these set of circumstances—neither Democrats nor Republicans have any reason to move from their positions.

The state Supreme Court has given the commission until Dec. 21st to get their work done. It seems right now, that won’t happen. Back in 2001, the commission had to deal with the fact that the state was losing a seat in Congress. The panel members had agreed, at least in the political sense, that the 5th and 6th districts were to be combined, the redistricting insider said. Also, both sides had a “dog in the fight”—the congressional make-up was 4 to 2 (Nancy Johnson and Chris Shays were the Republicans). Now, the entire delegation is Democratic. This year, both sides are entrenched with no agreement in sight.

The big sticking point is the 4th district currently represented by Democrat Jim Himes. The Republicans want Bridgeport, a Democratic stronghold, moved into the 3rd district, another Democratic stronghold. Such a move would give Republicans a good chance of winning the 4th or as Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney put it, “would make the district unwinnable for Democrats” who would like the districts to basically stay the same. The Republicans have nothing to lose and the Democrats have much to lose, hence, the standoff.

The fact that there are nine members on the commission (seemingly making a tie impossible) is of little consequence. The former insider tells The Shad that in practice, the ninth member has already agreed not to break a tie—otherwise, the two sides would never agree on the ninth member. The work of past reapportionment commissions was accomplished largely with the help of the esteemed former Speaker of the House Nelson C.L. Brown. He died three months ago.

If the stalemate continues, literally anything can happen. The court could redraw the lines itself; it could order an outside authority to come in and do it; it could order the commission to continue its work; or just about anything in between.