Congressional district plan from 2011. Lawmakers will be working to draft a new plan this year

As expected, Connecticut’s redistricting panel missed its Tuesday deadline to approve a new map for the state’s five congressional districts and asked the attorney general to request a three-week extension from the state Supreme Court. 

The nine-member Reapportionment Commission convenes once a decade to adjust voting districts to reflect changes in the state’s population. Earlier this month, the bipartisan group approved new maps for Connecticut’s state House and Senate voting districts but it has yet to tackle a map for its U.S. representatives. 

“For lack of a better term, the clock kind of is running out on us,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said during a short afternoon meeting. “What we’d like to do is just ask the Supreme Court if we could have a few more weeks.”

The panel voted unanimously to request that Attorney General William Tong petition the court to extend its deadline until Dec. 21. Although the panel’s target date was Tuesday, state law gives the group 30 days to petition the court. 

Members of the panel conceded last week that its final deadline was unattainable. Although the state census held roughly steady for the past decade, Connecticut experienced a large shift in population from the rural eastern region of the state to the southwestern region, especially in the fast-growing city of Stamford. 

The commission agreed on a map which shifted a whole House district into Fairfield County, among other changes, and a state Senate map which pulled a third district into Stamford and made more subtle alterations elsewhere. 

In needing more time to complete its congressional task, the commission follows in the footsteps of the 2011 panel, which arrived at a congressional map in February of 2012 only after intervention by a court-ordered moderator called a special master.

Members of this year’s panel praised the bipartisan process so far and said they did not anticipate any deadlock. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said the pandemic-related delays had prevented them from beginning a congressional map, nevermind hitting an impasse.

“This situation’s a little bit unique in that we haven’t had the time to put the effort in to negotiate in good faith a congressional map,” Candelora said.

House Speaker Matt Ritter said he was optimistic the group would agree on a map in a matter of days rather than weeks. 

However, in some ways the congressional map is more difficult to craft than its state counterparts. While a state Senate district is permitted to deviate from its population target by 5% in either direction, the panel does not enjoy the same flexibility while crafting congressional districts, which are each required to contain about 721,000 people. 

“Virtually no deviation is allowed,” Senate President Martin Looney said last week. “You have to hit the number almost exactly per district. So we’re going to have to have almost exactly 721,000 people per district.”

That precision will require careful trimming of some districts while expanding others. The commission will need to constrict the 4th District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, where Stamford alone grew by nearly 13,000 people. Meanwhile they will need to enlarge the 2nd District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, which already occupies most of the more sparsely-populated eastern half of the state. 

“That’s going to be a little tricky,” Kelly said last week. “We’ll have some work cut out for us but I think that we’ll get there.”

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