Attorneys for Republicans, Democrats, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy were able to agree on which two special masters to put forward to help complete the redistricting process, but they were unable to agree on where the special master‘s task will start.
Aaron Bayer, the attorney for the Democrats, told the Supreme Court Friday that “deference has to be to the last successful redistricting process.” Democrats on the commission have staunchly defended the 2001 map, which merged the 5th and 6th districts and pit two incumbents against each other.
The current map needs only “modest changes“ to bring it into compliance, Bayer argued.
Each Congressional district needs to include 714,819 people this year and the 2nd district has a population of about 729,771 people, according to U.S. Census data. As a result Democrats have argued for making minimal changes.
Bayer also argued that the special master should ignore the traditional redistricting criteria used in developing a redistricting plan.
“The Connecticut constitution does not include any of these criteria for Congressional redistricting, as some state constitutions do,” Bayer wrote in his brief. “That these criteria may be considered in the legislative redistricting process does not mean that courts are required to do so.”
Ross Garber, the attorney for the Republicans, disagreed with Bayer. He said the special master shouldn’t be required to “ignore or minimize traditional redistricting principles.”
He said the redistricting principles, of compactness and communities of interest, are repeatedly articulated in federal and state court decisions and should be the starting point.
He said those principles prevent racial isolation and gerrymandering.
“It would be a mistake to constrain the special master,” Garber argued.
He also argued a special master should not give deference to the 2001 map. He said the special master should have access to the 2001 map, but should not be constrained by it.
When the last redistricting commission in 2001 merged the 5th and 6th districts pitting two incumbents against each other, “that is why that district was gerrymandered,” Garber told the court. He said that map was never subjected to judicial scrutiny.
Bayer argued that anything less than sticking to the 2001 map would make it a “much more inherently political process.” He said there was never a legal challenge of the 2001 map and no one has claimed it’s illegal.
Garber said while the 2001 map should be included, other maps drawn in previous years, in addition to the maps created during the Reapportionment Commission process should be included.
“The special master shouldn’t be handcuffed,” Garber argued.
Andrew McDonald, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief legal counsel, said the special master should start with the 2001 map and shouldn’t start from scratch, but it also shouldn’t ignore the widely acknowledged redistricting principles.
“But unlike the Republican brief which exalts compactness the other principles should be given just as much weight,” McDonald told the court.
Democrats argued Republicans are ignoring the “communities of interest” principle in moving minority groups in and out of districts in their various versions of their maps in order to create a district that would favor a Republican candidate. Currently all five seats are held by Democrats, but they argue that three of the five seats have been held by Republicans over the past decade.
Garber told the court Republicans are not valuing one principle of redistricting over another, but he argues in his brief that “Although the concepts can be difficult to apply and ought not trump compactness, continuity, or preservation of traditional boundaries, in the absence of other guidance it makes sense to draw district lines so as to capture and maintain identifiable communities of interest as distinct voting blocs.”
William Bloss, the attorney who is representing the minority communities in Meriden, Norwalk, Bridgeport, and New Britain didn’t make any arguments and hasn’t filed a brief yet in the matter, but said he plans to stay involved in the proceedings.
The minority communities in those cities were upset when Republican maps eliminated Bridgeport from the 4th district and placed it into the 3rd district. Then after Republicans restored Bridgeport to the 4th, it removed New Britain from the 5th in its final version, which again upset the minority community.
The court issued an order late Friday appointing Professor Nathaniel Persily the special master and is expected to outline his duties by Thursday, Jan. 5.