Yesterday, the Delaware Senate and House of Representatives both approved their proposed district maps. State House and Senate maps will be sent to the Governor, who is expected to sign them into law for the next ten years. After advocating for a fair, transparent, and participatory process, Common Cause Delaware is now calling for the state to move to an independent redistricting commission model.
The process this year had both strengths and weaknesses. This year’s redistricting cycle ended the harmful practice of prison gerrymandering. For the first time in Delaware, people in prison were counted at their permanent home addresses rather than the prison where they are temporarily housed.
In addition, General Assembly leaders responded to public requests and created an informational website, where they posted draft maps for public review and received written testimony. They included “communities of interest” as an essential criteria for redistricting and convened three public hearings to allow public comment.
However, the maps were difficult for the average resident to download and understand, notices for hearings were not sufficient, individuals were granted only a few minutes to share their views, which constrained public debate, and the entire redistricting process was unnecessarily rushed.
Statement from Common Cause Delaware Executive Director Claire Snyder-Hall
Since the beginning of the year, Common Cause Delaware (CCDE) has worked with a number of allied groups as part of the Delaware Fair Maps Coalition to ensure that the redistricting process would be fair, transparent, and participatory and that new districts would be drawn around communities of interest rather than the interests of politicians. While this year’s redistricting process has not been perfect, we appreciate the efforts made to allow for public input.
Now, with the process completed, CCDE asks that state leaders turn their attention to making this year’s successes permanent and taking steps to remedy the shortcomings by moving to an independent redistricting commission model.
This year, Delaware made great strides when it comes to making redistricting more fair, transparent, and inclusive—but there’s still more progress to be made. It’s time we build on our successes and form a fully independent redistricting commission.
An independent redistricting commission would transfer the power of drawing district lines from elected officials to the people. The process would minimize partisan interests, and instead focus on the best interests of the people of Delaware. To ensure the process is fair and inclusive of every voice in our state, the commission would be required to follow a set of criteria, including a certain number of public hearings, mandate avenues for public input, and ensure accessibility for limited English proficiency (LEP) and disabled Delawareans.
CCDE applauds the General Assembly for including “communities of interest” among the essential criteria for redistricting and would like that to be added to SB 27 (currently tabled) that seeks to update the redistricting process as articulated in the Delaware Constitution.
We also thank the General Assembly for providing a website to keep the public apprised about the redistricting process and for convening a small number of public meetings.
Despite these efforts, however, this year’s process was less participatory than it could have been, due to the unreasonably short timeline that legislators insisted upon. Three to five business days is simply not enough time to allow people to digest the implications of the legislator drawn maps. Moreover, hearings that allowed only two to three minutes of discrete comments from community members did not enable a real conversation about the implications of proposed maps for voters.
We commend the legislature for considering community-drawn maps, however, in the end it seems that protecting incumbents – also called “preserving the cores of prior districts” – ended up playing too great a role in the process. This appears to contradict the mandate in the Delaware Constitution that prohibits maps from being drawn to “unduly favor any person or political party.” Delaware is actually one of the few states that includes such a prohibition in its governing document, and it should have been a bright line in the process.
We would like to see the reintroduction of a bill that would establish an independent redistricting commission, such as the one sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend back in 2017, that passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
We look forward to working with any member of the legislature interested in ensuring the future of redistricting is as fair, transparent, and inclusive as possible.