(Updated 4:22 p.m.)The Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday asking attorneys for the Democrats and Republicans on the Reapportionment Commission to appoint a special master to oversee the redistricting process. That means lawmakers are headed back to the drawing board.
The redistricting process came to a screeching halt last week after Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on how to draw the five congressional districts before the court-ordered deadline.
Republicans wanted to redraw the five districts, which they say were gerrymandered in 2001 when Connecticut lost its sixth district. Democrats believe the five districts are currently fair and proposed modest changes to account for an increase in population in the 2nd Congressional District.
But based on its order Tuesday the court seemed hesitant to take up the matter itself, as suggested by an attorney for the Democrats. Instead, the court sided with the Republican attorney and asked the two sides to nominate a special master by Friday.
The court’s order Tuesday puts the ball back into the hands of the nine-member Reapportionment Commission and forces them to reach a conclusion on how the lines should be drawn while a special master oversees the process.
“We are mindful that the drawing of the voting districts is a political question and is quintessentially a legislative function, but we are constrained by the mandate of Article Third, 6, of the Connecticut constitution and the deadline set therein to commence work on the petition immediately,” the court wrote. “While the foregoing proceedings are ongoing, however, the Commission shall continue working to agree on a redistricting plan, and we maintain hope that legislative action will be forthcoming.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said in a brief statement that “We have received the Court’s order and will work with the Court to arrive at a resolution.”
A spokesman for Republican House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, said the four Republicans on the commission are ready to get back to work.
“Clearly, the courts are concerned about a timely solution and are still holding out hope one can be reached,“ Pat O’Neil said Tuesday in response to the court order.
O’Neil said the Republicans were the last ones to put a map on the table and are ready to start a dialogue.
The court order asks the attorney for Republicans, Ross Garber, and the attorney for the Democrats, Aaron Bayer, to come up with a list of nominees for the position of special master no later Friday.
On Jan. 5 the court will appoint a special master, and will issue an order regarding the scope and duties of the special master. From Jan. 6 through Jan. 18 the commission will hold proceedings and argue their case to the special master. Then on Jan. 27 the special master will submit a report and recommendation to the court.
The two sides will submit briefs by Feb. 1 and oral arguments will be held Feb. 6. The court then has until Feb. 15 to file its plan with the Secretary of the State.