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Connecticut Supreme Court appoints special master to redraw congressional map

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January 6, 2012

By Greg Janetka

Connecticut

HARTFORD, Connecticut: Late last Friday the Connecticut Supreme Court named Nathaniel Persily, a political science professor at Columbia University, to serve as special master to oversee the redrawing of the state's congressional districts. He was one of two out-of-state professors agreed to by the Republican and Democratic members of the failed redistricting committee. Persily is the creator of the website Draw Congress, which was set up to educate the public about the redistricting process and provide nonpartisan maps. Persily has a January 27 deadline to produce a new map, and the court has until February 15 to submit a plan to the Secretary of State.[1]

While Republicans and Democrats were able to agree on Persily, they sharply disagreed on how he should proceed. Democrats have defended the 2001 map and are pushing for minor changes to it, with attorney Aaron Bayer stating to the court that “deference has to be to the last successful redistricting process.” He also argued that Persily should ignore the traditional redistricting criteria of compactness and communities of interest. Republican attorney Ross Garber, meanwhile, said those principals should be the starting point. He went on to say deference should not be made to the 2001 map, but that other maps should be included.[2]

The court issued their instructions for the special master on January 3. Seen as a victory for Democrats, the court instructs Persily to make minimal changes to the map. The order states that the special master “shall modify the existing congressional districts only to the extent reasonably required to comply with the following applicable legal requirements: a. Districts shall be as equal in population as is practicable. b. Districts shall be made of contiguous territory. c. The plan shall comply with 42 U.S.c. § 1973(b) and with other applicable provisions of the Voting Rights Act and federal law.”[3]

The redistricting commission failed to meet their original deadline of November 30. They received an extension until December 21, and failed to meet that deadline as well. This required the task to be taken up by the court.

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