(Updated 2:12 p.m.) Attorneys for Republicans and Democrats on the Reapportionment Commission have agreed on two special master candidates, both out-of-state professors, to offer the state Supreme Court, according to a brief filed by Aaron Bayer, the Democrats’ lawyer.
When they meet at 1 p.m. to argue before the court, attorneys for both sides will recommend the court appoint either Bernard Grofman of the University of California or Nathaniel Persily of the Columbia School of Law.
Negotiations over new lines for the state’s congressional districts ended last week when the two sides did not reach agreement before the court-ordered deadline.
On Tuesday the court issued an order putting the ball back in the hands of the commission and forcing them to reach a conclusion on how the lines should be drawn while a special master oversees the process.
Bayer said that, being from out of state, both candidates are neutral and have extensive experience redistricting. In court Friday afternoon neither side offered up a preference and both agreed they would need to make themselves available for the entire month of proceedings.
Grofman co-edited a book titled “Redistricting in Comparative Perspective” and serves as director of the Center for Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. He studied mathematics at the University of Chicago before receiving his Ph.D. political science in 1972, his biography said.
According to Persily’s biography, he is an expert in election law, “which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, and redistricting.” He received his Ph.D. in political science from U.C. Berkeley in 2002.
Persily also created DrawCongress.org, the first website to ever offer nonpartisan redistricting plans for the entire U.S. House of Representatives, his biography said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who earlier this week filed an appearance with the court, also filed a brief recommending both professors.
“While I still believe the Reapportionment Commission should have reached a solution on this issue in a timely fashion, I’m confident that whoever the court selects from the individuals we’ve all agreed to can develop a plan that will ensure residents of every community have a real say in who represents them in Washington,” Malloy said in a statement.
Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s legal counsel, spoke twice on the phone with Persily about his experience and qualifications, according to the brief. The governor said he seemed “exceptionally qualified for the task.”
Though McDonald had not spoken with Grofman, he said that he reviewed his resume in detail and found his qualifications “relevant and substantial.”
“That, coupled with the fact that counsel for all Reapportionment Commission members agreed to the appropriateness of him being named a special master in this proceed, leads the governor to concur that he should be considered by the court for this appointment,” he wrote.
The candidate the court picks should have a good understanding of the computer modeling and complex technical aspects of redistricting, not just its theories, McDonald said. The special master also shouldn’t be too political, he said.
“It is vitally important to the integrity of the process, and public respect for the outcome, that the special master be impartial and nonpartisan,” he wrote.