A bipartisan legislative panel convened to redraw Connecticut’s political district maps chose a former Democratic state lawmaker and auditor as its ninth member Thursday afternoon.
The Reapportionment Commission, which needs to conclude its work by Nov. 30, unanimously appointed Kevin Johnston of Pomfret as its ninth member.
Johnston served as the Democratic state auditor of public accounts for 18 years before his retirement last year. He also served as a state representative and state senator for Pomfret for about 20 years.
“I think Kevin Johnston has a reputation of being a very fair, nonpartisan person,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Thursday.
Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, served with Johnston when he was in the House and then later in the Senate. “He was always a very thoughtful, responsible legislator,” Looney said.
When the committee met last on Sept. 15 it concluded it needed more time to finish redrawing the Congressional and General Assembly districts.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, has said the committee’s inability to reach a conclusion on how to draw the political districts in the state is “not because of any partisan rancor or acrimony.”
“It’s just an enormous task and an incredibly important task,” McKinney said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy then reappointed the eight members of the committee, who in turn appointed Johnston as their ninth tie-breaking member.
In the 1991 and 2001, the last time the reapportionment committee convened, former House Speaker Nelson Brown was chosen as the ninth member. However, Brown, who was considered a “statesman” by many passed away this September.
The last time the committee met in September the four House members were working on drawing the lines for the 151 House districts and the four Senate members were working on drawing the lines for the 36 Senate districts. Committee members said Thursday that they still haven’t delved into redrawing the five Congressional districts.
“We’ve dealt with various sections, which by now we’ve sort of touched upon almost every section of the state, but the plan is contingent upon us agreeing on the whole state,” Cafero said. “We’ve touched upon Congress but haven’t gotten into it yet at this point.”
He said various members of the committee and their staff have been meeting just about every other day with the exception of this week due to the storm.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said they’ve made progress on the Senate side too but there’s still a lot to do.
“Certainly it’s not insurmountable by the Nov. 30 deadline,” Williams said.
If the committee is unable to reach consensus by Nov. 30 the maps will go to a judge who will decide how the districts are redrawn.
Federal law requires state lawmakers to redraw district boundaries every 10 years based on U.S. Census figures. This year those figures showed population in Connecticut increased 4.9 percent, but not enough to create another Congressional District.
In 2001 the state lost an entire Congressional district because its population decreased. This year the committee will have to look at a growing population in the eastern portion of the state and figure out how to redraw the lines accordingly.
Each Congressional district needs to include 714,819 people this year and the 2nd Congressional District has a population of about 729,771 people, according to U.S. Census data. That means the committee will be looking at shifting districts from east to west in order to reach its constitutionally mandated goals.