The number of state House seats isn’t expected to change this year, but a handful of people asked the eight-member Reapportionment Committee Wednesday to consider redrawing the lines to give bigger towns such as Windsor its own state representative.
Windsor resident, Leo Canty, told the Reapportionment Committee, that if his town had a representative it would be fighting real hard to preserve it. But Windsor doesn’t have its own representative. The town was carved into three House districts which also cover the surrounding towns of Bloomfield, Windsor Locks, and Suffield. None of the state representatives hail from Windsor, which Canty believes is one of the largest towns without its own House District.
“Everyone says it’s okay not to have a state rep. but they all fight like heck to keep theirs,” Canty said.
And it’s not for lack of trying. Canty attempted in 2010 to unseat incumbent state Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, in a Democratic primary and lost.
“People do want to have representatives from their towns. Its inherent in our blood, its inherent in our history going all the way back to when Windsor invented Connecticut in 1633,” Canty told the committee Wednesday afternoon.
He said the smaller towns of Bloomfield and Windsor Locks actually have more people in the 15 and 60th House Districts, which include part of Windsor even though Windsor is the bigger town.
The town of Windsor, according to Canty, was divided into three separate districts during the 1980 redistricting process at a time when Windsor’s representative was squabbling with the governor.
He said he thinks it would be fair to have someone who grows up in Windsor represent the community of more than 29,000 people.
But Baram said he already does that.
Baram said he can’t think of one issue that’s been important to Windsor that he hasn’t been 100 percent behind.
In terms of attending town functions, Baram said he and the other state representatives with a piece of Windsor are always at community functions and talking to people in town about what matters to them.
“The argument we’re not in town is not true. We’re there all the time,” Baram said. “If the town feels the person isn’t representing their town well then they’ll vote them out.”
“If you’re there all the time and part of the community then people view you as part of the community,” Baram said.
He said that’s what he and state Rep. Peggy Sayers, D-Windsor Locks, strive for. “The artificial distinction of where you live really doesn’t have as much relevancy anymore,” he added.
The bipartisan Reapportionment Committee also heard from the Registrar of Voters in Bethel, Mary Legnard, who asked them to reduce the number of state representatives in her town.
Legnard told the committee there are less than 11,000 voters in Bethel, but there are no fewer than five voting districts for the two House and two Senate districts representing the community. She said one of the districts has just 515 voters, which means when there’s an election and only 20 percent of the voters turn out in that one district it ends up costing the town about $30 per vote.
Bob Berman of Bloomfield said he can relate. He said there’s always confusion in Bloomfield on election day because no one knows where to vote with two House and two Senate districts.
He said he’s concerned about the expense of the numerous ballots the town has to print because of all the various combinations of candidates. He said Bloomfield is a small town, but it costs the town as much to print ballots as some of the larger cities.
Jeff Bridges, town manager of Wethersfield, said his town experiences similar problems. He said with 10 voting districts and four different ballots, each election costs upwards of $20,000.
Bridges asked the committee to eliminate the smallest voting district which includes 520 voters. He said this would allow the town to reduce the number of ballots to three and could save the town between $5,000 and $7,000 per election.
Bloomfield Mayor Syd Schulman said he would like to see 169 House districts, one for each municipality in the state.
While that seems like a simple proposal, the committee has to figure out how to draw the map for the 151 House districts by population. Each state representative, represents 23,500 people and anything less than that could be consider a violation of the constitution under the “one man, one vote,” principle.