It’s going to the courts.
While a committee of state legislators managed to draft plans for the reapportionment of state House and Senate districts by a midnight deadline Friday, a plan to eliminate one of Connecticut’s six congressional districts remained out of reach and will now fall to the state Supreme Court for the first time in history.
The members of the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission traded partisan accusations after the deadline passed Friday night even though legislators had known since early last year that they would have to to redefine the state’s districts.
Under Article 26 of the state Constitution, the legislature as a whole should have redrawn the state’s various political boundaries by Sept. 15. The nine-member commission was selected and charged with the task only after the legislature failed to accomplish it. The commission in turn had until midnight on Friday.
Now the Supreme Court has until Feb. 15 to devise a solution to the problem.
Every 10 years, when the federal government announces new census results, Connecticut must redraw the boundaries of its state assembly and congressional districts. This year, because Connecticut’s population did not increase as fast as those of other states, Connecticut will lose one-sixth of its representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While legislators on both sides said they were close to a deal Friday, David Fink, a spokesman for Connecticut House Speaker Moira Lyons, said the court can now do whatever it pleases.
“I would assume [the court] would want some input from people on both sides of the aisle, who have worked on this and know how things work,” Fink said. “But what they do is totally up to them.”
Fink said the court could return the task to the commission, hire its own consultant to see the process through, or hear arguments from the two parties.
“Redistricting is not their normal bailiwick,” he said. “What will they do? Honestly, I don’t know. — It’s possible everything will be on the table.”
On Friday, the commission was close to a deal that would have combined Democrat James H. Maloney’s 5th District and Republican Nancy L. Johnson’s 6th District, The Associated Press reported.
The deal would have created a new district that covered the entire northwestern part of the state, including the city of Danbury.
Ashley Westbrook, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, said she thought the integrity of DeLauro’s 3rd District — which includes New Haven and surrounding towns — would fare well before the court.
“We were really hoping that the committee could come up with a solution on its own within the time frame — but that didn’t happen,” Westbrook said. “We’re confident that most of our district will remain intact.”
Westbrook said DeLauro’s district may expand north to include Meriden, but she added that the court can do whatever it wants.
Westbrook said the best plan was the one the commission almost agreed upon on Friday — combining the 5th and 6th districts. She said chopping up Rep. Rob Simmons’ 2nd district, which includes most of eastern Connecticut, was a bad idea.
“The general feeling is that district has been too cohesive for too long,” Westbrook said.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he did not think the congressional redistricting process would affect the city’s representation.
DeStefano said the plan for the Connecticut House reached last last week — which will take away one of the city’s current districts and move part of another district out of the city — was more of a concern.
“We have one less vote,” he said. “The larger issue is that we will sum down the possibility of what we can accomplish if we continue to categorize places in simple terms like urban, suburban and rural.”