DOVER — A diverse coalition has called upon state leaders to come forward with specific redistricting hearing dates by Tuesday, when the first and only announced hearing is taking place.
On Sept. 10, officials announced a general outline of the redistricting process in response to pressure from Common Cause Delaware. The first hearing will be held virtually via Zoom at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Those interested can participate using the ID No. 849 5944 5548 on zoom.us.
Leaders said other dates would be announced “later this month,” but more than two weeks later, no more events have been publicized, according to a statement from Claire Snyder-Hall, director of Common Cause Delaware.
Common Cause is now asking state officials to take the next step and provide dates, times and locations with plenty of notice.
“It’s not enough for state leaders to say there will be public hearings; they need to share the actual dates too,” said Ms. Snyder-Hall. “People need to get the hearing dates on their calendars. With the General Assembly promising to rush this process through in less than two months, the clock is ticking. We hope state leaders announce hearing dates soon so as many voters as possible can have a say in these decisions that impact our lives.”
In addition to Common Cause, the coalition includes the League of Women Voters of Delaware, the American Civil Liberties Union Delaware, Network Delaware, the Newark branch of NAACP, the Latin American Community Center and many others.
The Delaware Fair Maps Coalition has also asked legislators to sign a pledge, stating that they will follow the Delaware Code by not voting for “any map that has been drawn for the purpose of including or excluding within any district the address of any individual” and by choosing only maps that “prioritize protecting communities, particularly those who have been historically harmed by redistricting.”
Additionally, ACLU Delaware has backed the pledge.
“We are asking state legislators to sign the pledge, in addition to sharing details on how the public can participate in this year’s redistricting cycle,” said Dwayne Bensing, staff attorney for ACLU. “Without a commitment to fairness, transparency and accountability, the process will be driven by politicians looking to win re-election, not the voters who deserve accountability.”
On Aug. 4, this grassroots coalition sent state leaders a letter, asking for a fair, transparent and participatory redistricting process.
More than a month later, legislators announced that the redistricting cycle will officially begin Tuesday and will conclude by Nov. 8. The timeline provides less than two months to draw new district maps for the state legislature that will determine the fate of elections for the next decade.
“It’s a technical process that is not as simple as drawing 41 equally sized districts in the House and 21 districts in the Senate,” said Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, in announcing the first hearing. “We are committed to a process that involves the public and solicits their input. We welcome public input into the process, whether their comments are specific or general.
“We’re charged with drawing districts that are roughly equal in population, that follow natural boundaries or major roads whenever possible, that keep communities together, and that adhere to the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” he added.
An important new feature of this year’s redistricting cycle is the end of prison gerrymandering. 2021 marks the first time that Delaware will count incarcerated people at their last known address, instead of at prisons, for purposes of redistricting, the coalition noted.
Data should be provided to the public about how the General Assembly has properly counted incarcerated people in accordance with state law and how this will impact the population of each proposed district, the statement said.
“It’s important that everyone in Delaware have confidence that this year’s redistricting process protects communities of interest,” said Kyra Hoffner of the League of Women Voters of Delaware. “Redistricting will determine if every eligible voter in Delaware has the right to vote for better working conditions, stronger schools, and racial justice. We hope our leaders provide a democratic process that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.”
To date, community members have submitted proposed district maps for the state legislature’s consideration, and the coalition is recruiting advocates to evaluate proposed maps.