DOVER — This past week, the public weighed in on redistricting draft map proposals produced by Democrats, Delaware’s majority party.
Early this week, updated maps go online, possibly Monday, a week or so ahead of a special legislative session for the General Assembly to vote on the proposals.
“To the best of my knowledge, we are still set for a Nov. 1 special session,” said Scott Goss, communications director for the Senate Majority Caucus.
“The General Assembly is expected to convene a week from Monday (Nov. 1) to pass a state legislative redistricting measure,” said Joe Fulgham, communications officer for the Delaware House of Representatives Republican Caucus. “Between now and then, the House and Senate plans will need to be finalized and converted into a single bill delineating the metes and bounds of all 62 legislative districts. Time is short.”
“In the interests of transparency and cooperation regarding an action that will have future repercussions for the entire state, it would be constructive if all the changes to the draft plans could be publicly shared a few days prior the enactment of the reapportionment bill,” Mr. Fulgham said.
The public hearing with the House of Representatives was held Monday, Oct. 18, hosted by Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth.
The Senate hearing, which drew more public commentary, was hosted by 8th District Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, on Oct. 19.
The last public hearing was Oct. 21, in Senate chambers at Legislative Hall.
Senate maps included a collaborative effort with input from the Republican Senate.
Hearings include comment from individuals and groups, including the League of Women Voters of Delaware, Common Cause Delaware and the American Civil Liberties Union Delaware.
Representatives from the town of Slaughter Beach, including Mayor Kathleen Lock, opposed the Senate map proposal, which will move the town of about 300 people from the 18th District in Sussex County to the 16th District in Kent County.
There was concern from Mitch Crane and Sandy Spence about the Senate proposal which would move an existing community of interest — the LGBTQ community — from the 6th District to the 19th District.
On the House side, Mr. Fulgham said the Republican minority is seeking a modification to maps in the Newark area, where Republican incumbent Mike Ramone has been drawn into the neighboring district held by a multi-term Democrat, Paul Baumbach.
“We are lobbying to keep State Rep. Mike Ramone in his district and have presented the basis for a workable solution using the draft maps presented by the House Majority Caucus as a starting point,” said Mr. Fulgham, who added “feedback on that proposal seems unlikely to occur before Monday.”
Based on the 2020 U.S. Census, Delaware’s population was 989,940, which means the standard/ideal population number for each of the 21 Senate districts is 47,140, and 24,145 for each of the 41 House districts.
In an effort to keep communities and neighborhoods intact, the goal is that the population of each district does not deviate from the standard population base by more than plus or minus 5%.
The redistricting process must follow guidelines regarding contiguity, compactness, communities of interest and observing natural or political boundaries, all while maintaining majority-minority districts (a racial or language minority group that comprises a voting majority).
Redistricting must comply with constitutional requirements, including the federal voting rights act while preventing discrimination through the dilution of minority communities.
“We are hopeful the House and Senate majority caucuses will listen to the constructive criticisms and observations presented by citizens, advocacy groups, and minority legislators and make reasoned alternations that can be accommodated within the framework of the proposed draft plans,” Mr. Fulgham said.
Legislative districts take effect for the 2022 general election. Candidates in that election must reside in those new districts.