The tiny Sussex County town of Slaughter Beach and southern Delaware’s LGBTQ gay community drew commentary Tuesday evening during the virtual hearing on Delaware Senate’s redistricting draft map proposals.
Slaughter Beach Mayor Kathleen Lock, former town mayor Harry Ward and Slaughter Beach council member Larry Meinert opposed the proposal, which would move the town from the 18th Senate District into the 16th District, based in Kent County.
“Concerns to our residents are immediate and pressing. We are on the front line against the ravages of seal level rise and climate change,” said Mayor Lock. “To this end we have worked diligently to build a good relationship with Sen. David Wilson and Rep. Bryan Shupe. This relationship is one that is built on trust, experience and goodwill. As mayor of a small coastal town, a town that is confronting the almost insurmountable issue of climate change, I am fervently asking that you allow us to continue to have our voices heard in Dover by not redistricting our town out of Senate District 18.”
Mr. Ward said this proposal would make Slaughter Beach the only municipality within District 16 located within Sussex County.
“I would ask that a proposed 300 residents move from one district to another does very little to resolve population evolutions within Delaware while setting up many issues and potential issues for the SB population, its elected officials, within the town, its county officials and state officials.”
Mr. Meinert stated that Slaughter Beach is working with Sussex County on a major sewer project, in terms of money, time and commitment and effect upon the economy. “This redistricting would remove the town of Slaughter Beach from Sussex County and put it in Kent County where we share many fewer links with people, economies and projects. This is one concrete example where redistricting is directly harming our interests,” he said.
Mitch Crane voiced objection to the map proposal that removes part of existing Senate District 6 into the 19th District.
“The proposed map removes from the existing district an essential community of interest, much of LGBTQ community. Guidelines stress that districts should include residents with common political interests. Delaware law has created protective classes of citizens. The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ from the current 6th District … and places it in the 19th District which has a small such population, and by doing so dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs.”
Several others voiced similar concerns, including Sandy Spence. The Lewes/Rehoboth area that constitutes “most the draft for District 6 is presently a community where people are welcoming to diversity. But the proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community,” she said.
The state Senate will hold an in-person event Thursday at Legislative Hall at 6 p.m.
A link for the online meeting is available here.
The plan is to get final maps done by or before Nov. 8, as the state constitution requires that a candidate live in a district for a year prior to be eligible to run for that district. A public meeting on House maps was held Monday.
Once approved by the House and Senate, the redistricting bill will head to Gov. John Carney for his signature.