Tonight, House state legislators will provide the first opportunity for the public to weigh in on draft maps in a hybrid redistricting hearing in-person in the House Chamber and virtually on Zoom at 6:00 p.m. The public will be invited to provide testimony, during which Common Cause Delaware will advocate for a redistricting timeline extension, highlight the need for reform, and press for fair maps that prioritize the interests of the voters.
To sign up to attend tonight’s public hearing, click here.
The following is the prepared testimony of Common Cause Delaware Director Claire Snyder-Hall.
“While we thank you for holding this one public hearing so that community members can testify for two minutes each about the proposed maps, we believe that the people of Delaware deserve more opportunities to have meaningful input into the process. Redistricting is a vitally important process because it will affect the ability of communities to have their voices heard in Dover for the next ten years and that will in turn affect the decisions that are made about a wide range of policy issues that have material effects on people’s lives.
The public has been given only three business days to evaluate the proposed House maps and less than a week total. I am a paid staff member of an advocacy organization, and I have been scrambling to get a clear understanding of the impact these maps will have on communities of interest in such a short period of time, which included having to upload the maps into the Dave’s redistricting app. I can only imagine how challenging it would be for everyday voters to get any sense of what the new lines mean.
From our preliminary and quick analysis, there appear to be a number of problems with both the proposed House and Senate maps. First, there are multiple municipalities that are split. For example, Wilmington is split 6 times, Newark 3 times, and Dover 4 times in the House maps. Even the tiny town of Lewes is split in two. The Senate maps also split Wilmington and Newark 3 times, and Dover twice.
While we understand that splitting municipalities may be necessary to ensure districts are equal in population, this level of splitting is concerning. Residents of municipalities tend to share concerns and interests, such as education funding or the need for green space. Dividing municipalities unnecessarily may undermine our right to equal representation. The public deserves to hear how and why these district boundaries were drawn this way and should have a chance to provide alternatives.
There also appear to be a large number of so-called “edge incumbents,” currently seated representatives who reside right on the very edge of their districts. That indicates that proposed districts may have been drawn to protect incumbents, which violates the Delaware Constitution that prohibits drawing maps to unduly favor a person. Redistricting processes should result in districts that ensure every Delawarian has equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. Drawing districts for the purpose of including an incumbent’s home address is in direct contravention of this principle.
It seems the ability of the public to review and comment on the proposed maps has been cut short because of the General Assembly’s self-imposed deadline of Nov. 8. There is no reason why the redistricting process must be completed by Nov. 8. A reasonable interpretation of the language in the Delaware Constitution is that candidates need to reside in the geographic area composing the district. Accordingly, if candidates plan to run for seats in the districts in which they live, they will have been there for well over a year, regardless of when this process finishes and final lines and district numbers are determined. It’s troubling that the reason the process is being fast-tracked may be to allow people to move so they can run for office. And that is not a good reason to cut this process short.
Thus, we ask that the deadline be extended until the end of the year, so that a more thorough analysis can be conducted, and the voters who will be directly impacted by this process have time to weigh in. Since the candidate filing deadline is not until July 2022, that leaves plenty of time for the legislature to get community input and allow for court review if necessary. We would also like more public hearings to be scheduled.
This year’s process shows it’s time to give serious consideration to an independent redistricting commission in 2022. We have seen this year, as in past cycles, that when redistricting is driven by elected officials, the maps will be drawn to benefit the electeds, and not the voters.
How district maps are drawn will impact our communities for the next decade so it’s important we take our time to thoughtfully move this process forward. We urge you to consider a timeline extension for this current cycle and an independent commission for the next redistricting cycle.
Thank you for your time.”