DOVER – With an early November deadline approaching, Delaware’s General Assembly will host public hearings later this month to allow residents to comment on proposed legislative redistricting maps.
The House will host a hybrid hearing on Monday, Oct. 18.
The Senate will host a virtual hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and an in-person hearing at Legislative Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21.
All hearings will begin at 6 p.m. Registration links will be available on the legislative redistricting website here.
These hearings will provide the public opportunities to provide their input and suggestions on draft House and Senate district maps. These drafts will be published on the redistricting website next week.
Each hearing will begin with legislative leaders offering an overview of the redistricting process and description of the proposed districts. They will then solicit public comment from residents regarding the proposed maps.
Claire Snyder-Hall, director of Common Cause Delaware, questions the timing.
“While we are glad to see the state legislature announce hearing dates, the timing could have been better. Announcing hearing dates on the Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend is less than ideal. While it may not have been intentional, this is the kind of activity that stirs distrust in government,” said Ms. Snyder-Hall.
“Since September, we have been asking the state legislature to release hearing dates and times, so voters can get these dates on their calendars. We look forward to hearing how the state legislature plans to ensure as many voters as possible know about these hearings, so they can have a say in this important democratic process. We also hope that the maps will be released early next week, so people will have time to view them.”
Common Cause Delaware is part of a grass-roots coalition that includes the League of Women Voters, ACLU-Delaware, Network Delaware, Newark DE NAACP, the Latin American Community Center and many others.
“There have already been a few disappointing aspects of this redistricting process. For example, the strictly enforced two-minute limit on speakers at hearings. This process will determine the fate of our elections for 10 years, and we think that deserves more than two minutes of testimony,” Ms. Snyder-Hall said.
“We hope that going forward the state legislature will be far more fair and transparent with the public about this critical process, and that includes giving the public ample time to view and weigh in on proposed maps.”
Every 10 years, states must redraw their legislative districts based on the most recent federal Census data. This process, known as redistricting, requires the General Assembly to follow a very specific, very technical set of guidelines.
There are numerous criteria each district must meet, including containing a relatively similar population size and meeting guidelines concerning contiguity, compactness, communities of interest and observing natural or political boundaries, all while maintaining majority-minority districts.
This year’s redistricting process was delayed due to the U.S. Census Bureau’s late reporting of population data to the states. Final population data was received from the Census Bureau in late September. Data is typically released in the spring.
On Sept. 28, Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola in a Zoom session announced the launch of a redistricting website where residents can learn more about redistricting, review data, find out when public hearings will be held, examine draft maps (once completed), and submit their own plans, suggestions, and requests in writing through an online submission form.
Legislative leaders will introduce the final maps as a Senate Bill at the end of October. There will be one bill for all 62 legislative districts – 41 House, 21 Senate - detailing the boundaries of each district. The General Assembly will convene for a special session on Monday, Nov. 1 to consider the final redistricting bill. If passed by the House and Senate, it will go to Gov. John Carney for his signature.
The new legislative districts will take effect for the 2022 general election. Candidates in that election must reside in the new districts, and immediately following the Nov. 8, 2022, election, legislators will begin representing constituents within the new district lines.