HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — How should political boundary lines be drawn in the state’s congressional district map?
A group charged with the task could not decide, so now a special master appointed by the state supreme court has the job. But even that has become a fight.
New Census data and the Constitution require lawmakers to re-draw the Congressional district boundaries.
State Representative Matt Ritter, the Democratic Speaker of the House, explains it like this: “My kids would love to have chicken tenders all day, but you’ve got to mix it with some broccoli and that’s what this map is.”
Each district must have 721,188 people in it. That’s 1/5 of the state’s overall population.
The Democrats’ proposed map is similar to the current map. The Republican proposed map rearranges the first district claw outline and centralizes the towns to even out the greater Hartford area from the western district known as the fifth.
But lawmakers say once the Congressional delegation weighed in on the local proposals, the process hit a wall.
“All of a sudden the situation went sideways and it had a lot to do with the fact that our congressional delegation thinks that they’re an entitled class,” said State Senator and Republican Minority Leader Kevin Kelly.
The redistricting panel could not reach an agreement and missed its deadline.
Speaker Ritter said the Washington disfunction spilled over into the Connecticut negotiation.
“When you’re drawing Congress and you look at what’s going on in Washington and the level of toxicity that exists… It’s so raw for them and I get it, it’s just really nasty.”
A court-appointed expert from Stanford University Law School is now in charge. Democrats say he’s “eminently qualified,” but Republicans asked for him to be replaced. They wanted two experts.
Senator Kelly described what the state of Virginia did: “In the Virginia model, they picked two special masters, one from each, so it would remain non-partisan.”
Democrats filed a legal brief opposing the Republican idea. News 8 has learned the court rejected the Republican motion. The special master will continue in his role.
“Knowing that there is a special master that was favorable to one side of this negotiation, it’s changed because they have a backstop now that they didn’t have before,” Kelly added.
Ironically, both Kelly and Ritter agree the process should have stayed with the legislature.
“It’s not the court’s job to do this. It’s inherently our job to do it and when we don’t do it, you’re asking people who want nothing to do with politics — which is why they became judges in the first place — to weigh in on a very political process,” Ritter explained.
The deadline for completing the redistricting is Feb. 15. There is a hearing set for the end of January.
The lawmakers did successfully decide on the State House and State Senate Maps. If you would like to try and create the new map, you can visit davesredistricting.org