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Hearst Connecticut Editorial: CT finds a better way to draw district lines

Posted on November 22, 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media on Nov. 21 published an editorial shortly after the state’s Redistricting Commission voted to approve new district boundaries for Connecticut’s House of Representatives. Check out the piece below:


Hearst Connecticut Media Editorial Board

Editorial: CT finds a better way to draw district lines

Nov. 21, 2021

Across the country, displays of political partisanship are rarely as blatant as when it comes time to draw political districts. Depending on which party is in control, lines are drawn to dramatically favor those in power and make elections oftentimes a foregone conclusion. Rather than voters choosing their leaders, too often it is leaders choosing their voters.

Be thankful Connecticut does not count itself among those masses.

The state recently approved a new map for state legislative districts, and the process ended with some winners and some losers, as was inevitable. But in general, the winners were places in Connecticut where the population is growing, such as Fairfield County , while the eastern half of the state, where population is declining, lost out a bit. That’s as it should be.

Perhaps even more welcome is the reaction of politicians to those changes. Legislative leaders of both parties praised the bipartisan process that led to this point, which follows every decennial census, and lauded Connecticut’s path toward reaching a compromise acceptable to all.

It’s true that it’s easier to make these changes in a place like Connecticut, where one party has so many more members, and thus representatives, than the other. But that has never stopped complaining on other issues, so it’s notable that the House districts were approved with a minimum of dissent.

Connecticut’s bipartisan process is a stark contrast to other states that leave redistricting solely up to whoever is in power. That’s where you end up with a party that wins 51 percent of a state’s popular vote drawing a map that will earn them 75 percent of elected representatives and offer little hope of change until the next 10-year redistricting.

Gerrymandering is among the worst anti-democratic trends in America today, and it’s not as though Connecticut has been immune from it, especially in its U.S. congressional districts. But it’s not nearly as big a problem here as elsewhere.

The new map is also the first one to account for the state’s prison gerrymandering law, passed in the most recent legislative session, which requires most prison inmates to be counted in the district of their last home address rather than the district in which they are incarcerated.

Previously, more political power accrued to the districts that were home to prisons, even though many of the inmates housed there were only in place temporarily, and were in no way invested in the district’s future. This is a better way.

The new maps also helped increase continuity among constituencies. It’s important for representation to closely match town lines and affiliated populations whenever possible, and this map, by all accounts, does a good job of that.

Some activists said the process could have been more transparent, including with the release of draft maps throughout the past few months, but that’s a minor complaint.

Redistricting is a necessary step in legitimate legislative government. Too often it’s used as a way to divide constituencies and cement power. Connecticut, for now, has a better way. It’s one aspect of democracy promotion that could use wider circulation.