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Redistricting in Connecticut

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Note: Redistricting takes place every ten years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in Connecticut
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General information
Partisan control:
Legislature first, Commission if legislature fails before deadline
September 15, 2011 (legislature); November 30, 2011 (Commission)
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in Connecticut. Although the state avoided a repeat of 2000, when they lost a seat, its 4.9 percent growth rate was only half the national average, a trend common across New England states in the 2000s. In addition to redistricting the same five U.S. House seats, Connecticut also had to divvy up 187 state legislative seats in two chambers across the state.


The Connecticut General Assembly bears primary responsibility for redistricting. To this end, the legislature appoints a bipartisan committee tasked with drafting new maps. These maps are then presented to both chambers and require a 2/3 majority vote for approval. If the legislature cannot agree on a plan by the deadline, a nine-member redistricting commission is selected to complete the task. Minority and majority leaders in both chambers each appoint two members, and the eight appointees select a ninth, tie-breaking member. The commission, which does not require legislative approval, has until another deadline to create new maps, or the Connecticut Supreme Court can intervene and complete the maps itself.[1]


The legislature appointed eight members to its reapportionment committee. The 2011 member were as follows:[2]

Democratic PartyDemocrats (4)

Republican PartyRepublicans (4)

On Friday, April 8, 2011, the legislature convened its first redistricting meeting, with the next session set for May 16, 2011.[3]

Public meetings, with at least one guaranteed in each Congressional district, were scheduled for the summer, most likely in late June and early July. As of mid-April, lawmakers, who have the discretion to create or abolish legislative seats as part of redistricting, said it was too early to be definitive about how much districts would change at either the state or the federal level.[4]

Of note, the House was required not to split towns among districts, something that does not bind the Senate.


Compared to 2000, when Connecticut lost a Congressional seat, the 2011 process began less momentously, when the state retained its current five seats. Under Connecticut's Constitution, the next step was naming an eight-member committee. The head of each caucus in the General Assembly names two members under the law. Ultimately, Connecticut's reapportionment committee would have four state Representatives and four state Senators, with membership evenly split between the two major parties.[5]

Legal deadlines for 2011 redistricting were set at February 15, 2011 for naming committee members and September 15, 2011 for passing redistricting plans. Each plan, for Congressional, House, and Senate Districts, was required to pass both chambers of the state legislature on a two-thirds majority. Historically, committee members from each house take the lead on drawing boundaries for their own chamber's seats. Drawing the Congressional seats then becomes a joint endeavor.[6]

An additional provision was made if the committee failed to pass its plans by the September deadline, which involved forming an eight-member redistricting commission. Those members may be the same as the committee and select, within 30 days for being formed, a ninth member.

The potential commission received a limited span, until November 30, 2011, under the law to draw maps, without necessarily requiring legislative approval. If the commission failed, the boundaries would then become a matter for Connecticut's Supreme Court, who had a legally set deadline of February 12, 2012 for any work they did. The Supreme Court also heard any challenges to the committee or commission, which must be filed within 30 days and heard within 45.

Connecticut law requires all House and Senate District be contiguous, as well as mandating that, when forming assembly district, towns borders may not be bisected. Under those laws and with the requirement that Districts be as nearly equal as possible, early projections for the 2011 redistricting imagined the Second District shrinking and the First and Third both shifting to the east.[7] In 2000, the Second District, which had shrunk from 1990, was the first suggestion on the chopping block when the state lost a Congressional seat. Debate later shifted to the Fifth and then to the no-longer existing Sixth.

Public input

The General Assembly's reapportionment committee held a series of public hearings around the state to discuss redistricting. The schedule can be found here.

Additionally, the public had until August 31 to submit comments.[8]

Fail to meet deadline

In a repeat of the redistricting process following the 1990 and 2000 censuses, the eight member reapportionment committee failed to adopt a plan by the September 15 deadline.[9] On September 13 the committee sent a letter to Gov. Dan Malloy (D) telling him they would not be able to finish on time. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R) said the additional time was not needed because of any partisan fighting, stating, "We're focused on a very important task. I think everybody on the committee is working very hard. It's just an enormous task and a very important task."[10]

The eight members expected to be reappointed by the governor to the commission that was to take over the process. The first eight then had 30 days to select a ninth member, with a deadline of November 30 for a plan.[11]

Call to remove Speaker

Following the announcement that the committee would not meet their deadline, Mark Greenberg, a Republican candidate for U.S. House called for Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan (D) to remove himself from the committee due to "a blatant conflict of interest" - Donovan was also running for the congressional seat. Greenberg stated, "A declared candidate sitting on the panel that is recommending new district boundaries gives the absolute worst appearance.”[12]

Ninth member

The redistricting panel added former Democratic state auditor Kevin Johnson as its ninth member of November 3. "I was honored to be asked by the leaders, obviously by both parties, to serve on this committee. I know that the mission is a very sensitive and difficult one and it's not quite as clear-cut as a lot of people might think," Johnson said.[13]

Census results

Figure 1: This map shows the Connecticut Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau shipped detailed information to Connecticut on March 10, 2011, numbers that showed the state's growth owed to minority expansion, particularly Hispanics.[14]

As Connecticut neither gained nor lost seats, there was a possibility of leaving the state's five Congressional seats largely intact and shifting boundaries slightly to accommodate internal population shifts. Specific population imbalances were as follows:

  • 1st -3,868
  • 2nd +14,952
  • 3rd -2,480
  • 4th -8,079
  • 5th -523

Needing only 523 more residents to be an 'ideal district', Connecticut's 5th had the distinction of being nearly perfectly balanced.[15]

The Fairfield area remained Connecticut's most populous, with the state's eastern half overall growing faster than the west.[16] Because of this, a predictable scenario involved the 2nd shrinking eastward while the 3rd expanded in the same direction.[17][18]

Congressional maps

District 5 speculation

An early rumor to come out of the committee's work was that Bridgeport, Connecticut's most populous city, was in play as part of redrawing the 5th District. House Speaker Christopher Donovan, a member of the redistricting committee and a possible contender for the seat in the 2012 elections, was thought to have his eye on adding Bridgeport to what was a traditionally Republican held seat.[19]

Under such a plan, Danbury, already in the 5th, would have become part of the newly drawn 4th. The Speaker threw water on such an idea. "People make up all kinds of things. I don't know what you're talking about," he told local press. Fellow Democrats backed up that assertion, with the state party saying a map that placed Bridgeport in the 5th didn't make sense and the Democratic Chair of Greenwich emphasized the importance of keeping Bridgeport in the 4th.

Districts 2 & 3 speculation

Under a possible redistricting scenario, the city of Madison could have been moved from District 2 to District 3. This could have had the effect of displacing Daria Novak, one of two GOP challengers to District 2 Rep. Joe Courtney (D). Republicans could have backed the option to avoid a primary battle.[20]

Fail to meet deadline

The reapportionment commission failed to meet the November 30 deadline to produce a new congressional map, applying for a 30-day extension. Speaker of the House Chris Donovan (D) resigned his seat on the commission, handing his position to House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey. Donovan, who was running for a congressional seat, said his presence "turned into a political issue. I don’t want politics to be involved in the process.”[21]

The commission received a 15 day extension, giving them a deadline of December 21.[22] The commission failed to meet the new deadline, sending the task to the Connecticut Supreme Court. It was the first time in state history that the Court drew new congressional districts. Senate President Donald Williams (D) said, "This was unfortunate, regrettable and avoidable. We did not want this matter to go to court. There's really no reason for this to be the lap of the Supreme Court, and I regret that."[23]

The court had the choice to redraw the map itself, seek an outside source for the task, appoint a special master to do it, or order the redistricting committee back to work. They had a deadline of February 15, 2012 for a final plan.[24]

Commission ordered back to work

The court ultimately ordered the commissioners back to work on December 27, adding that a special master would be appointed to oversee the court's redrawing of the map. According to the court order, "The (legislative redistricting) commission shall continue working to agree on a redistricting plan, and we maintain hope that legislative action will be forthcoming. If at any time during these proceedings a redistricting plan validly is enacted, the court will then take such action that it deems appropriate."[25]

Special master appointed

Republicans and Democrats on the committee were asked to submit a list of nominees for the special master if they could not agree on a single candidate.[26] The parties submitted the names of two out-of-state professors, with the court agreeing to name Nathaniel Persily, a political science professor at New York's Columbia University, to the position on December 30. He had a January 27 deadline to produce a new map.[27]

While Republicans and Democrats were able to agree on Persily, they sharply disagreed on how he should proceed. Democrats defended the 2001 map and pushed 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.[28]

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.”[29]

A public hearing was held on January 9 to allow Republican, Democrats and members of the public to present their ideas and plans for new districts to Persily. Ross Garber, attorney for the Republicans, said the map proposed by Republicans satisfied the court's order. Democrats, meanwhile, continued to argue that as few changes as possible should be made to the 2001 map.[30]

The dispute came down to the 5th District, part of which was surrounded by the 1st District like a clamp. Democrats pushed to move 523 residents of the 5th in order to meet population requirements, while Republicans wanted to move the entire city of New Britain into the 1st. Rep. Arthur O'Neill (R), the only member of the 2011 reapportionment commission to have served on the 2001 commission, said they never saw the odd shaped 5th District as a permanent solution, but rather a move that was fair to the two incumbents at the time.[31]

Along with the proposed plans from Republicans and Democrats, Persily also considered maps from the Coalition for Minority Representation and a resident associated with Democracy for America.

Special master proposal

Persily submitted a draft report and plan to the state Supreme Court on January 13, and his final proposal January 19.[32] It had three districts with 714,819 people and two with 714,820, and kept Bridgeport in the 4th District and New Britain in the 5th.

Persily's plan resembled the map submitted by Democrats, making only minor changes to the existing map. Persily explains, “It moves only 28,975 people (0.81 percent of the state’s population) out of their current districts, splits one fewer town than the existing congressional plan and provides districts slightly more compact than the existing plan."[33]

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero (R) said it was unlikely that Republicans would appeal the decision, stating, “It is ostensibly the Democratic plan. I respect it. It’s over. We move on from here.”[34]

State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, however, had harsher words, calling the plan a “perpetuation of gerrymandering.”[33] Objections could be filed with the court until February 1. The Connecticut Supreme Court held oral arguments on February 6[35] and submitted its final plan to the Secretary of State on February 15.

Attorney for the Democrats, Aaron S. Bayer, defended the plan, saying it was "principled, it's fair, it's tailored to the facts," while Republican attorney Ross H. Garber called it "an anachronistic, gerrymandering scheme."[36]

The court rejected the Republican's challenge on February 10, accepting the map drawn by Persily. Persily received $36,400 for his work.[37]

Legislative maps

With time running out to meet their November 30 deadline,[38] the redistricting commission agreed on a new House map on November 28.[39] Gov. Dan Malloy was critical of the process, stating, "They should get their act together and get reapportionment done. It's an odd number of people. Get a vote, and get it done, and stop playing around with it."[40]

In the final hours before the deadline, the commission approved a plan for state Senate districts.[41]

Possible NAACP lawsuit

The city and state branches of the NAACP planned to file a court injunction against the redistricting plan by May 1, 2012. They argued that the plan was created by white legislative leaders at the expense of minority voters and incumbent Sen. Edwin Gomes (D). Their focus was on the movement of voters between the 22nd District, held by Anthony Musto (D), and the 23rd, held by Gomes. While the legislature said 3,000 voters were moved from the 23rd to the 22nd in exchange for 2,000 in return, Quinnipiac University political science professor Khalilah Brown-Dean said there were actually 6,584 people moved from the 23rd to the 22nd, most of whom were minorities, while most shifted into the 23rd were white.[42]


Connecticut 2010 Redistricting Timeline
Date Action
February 15, 2011 Committee members must be named.
Early Spring 2011 Detailed U.S. Census date are released for Connecticut.
April 8, 2011 Legislature holds first redistricting meeting.
September 15, 2011 Legislature must adopt a plan.
November 30, 2011 If a Commission is required, they must complete work.
February 12, 2012 Connecticut Supreme Court involvement must be completed, with 30 days to file complaints and 45 days to be heard.


2001 redistricting

Figure 2: This map shows the Connecticut Assembly Districts after the 2000 census.
Figure 3: This map shows the Connecticut Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Tiny Connecticut lost a seat in 2000, something they had staved off in the past two cycles. The eight member Reapportionment Committee charged with collapsing six seats to five was never lacking for suggestions. Democrats would ideally have gone after the Republican held 2nd seat, something they admitted was more a dream than a goal. Republicans would happily have eliminated the 5th District and parceled the land out to surrounding seats, a plan Dems painted as an over-simplification. Both parties could, though, agree that the final plan would affect the 4th and 5th seats.

Rep. James H. Maloney noted the bipartisan focus on his seat and anticipated a primary against one of his Congressional colleagues in 2002. Constituents in favor of preserving as much as possible of the district came out in force at open meetings. Maloney's seat briefly looked safe, when the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments voted to cut the 2nd in half. Days later, they reversed themselves. Meanwhile, the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments declined to take an official position on redistricting. Reshaping the 5th got public support due to its odd shape and its having been pasted together hastily in 1961.[43]

In spite of public meetings wrapping up on schedule, the Reapportionment Commission was not on track to deliver by the September 15, 2001 due date. On September 12, 2001, members officially announced they would not meet the deadline. They still had until November 30, 2001 before a ninth member, meant to act as a tie breaker, would be appointed, and the committee indeed continued to work for another month. By mid-October, they were willing to add the ninth member. As expected, Nelson Brown, who had filled the same position in 1991, was tapped.[44]

Only days ahead of losing control over the process to the courts, the Commission of nine voted unanimously on a plan for three dozen Senate seats. Three days later, they passed a map for the Connecticut House of Representatives. However, on the last day available, an attempt to merge the 5th and 6th Congressional Districts became bogged down in examining the meaning of "fair." Despite working until midnight, the Congressional map remained unfinished. At that point, the courts, and the criticism, took over. The state Supreme Court only had to finish what the Commission left undone, with a February 15, 2002 deadline.

Prior to 2001, the state's courts had been involved in resolving various challenged to redistricting but had never before actually drawn any maps. Hoping to get a second chance, Republicans requested more time from the courts, a motion Democrats seconded. In a December 4, 2001 hearing, the judges agreed, allowing the Commission a second chance to finish the last bit of work.[45]

They did manage to complete the Congressional map on December 21, 2001 and to approve it. Soon after the new year, the map saw its first challenge, when a self-described "redistricting activist" petitioned the state's Supreme Court to throw out the maps on the grounds on bad data and intentional gerrymandering. Following the January 16 2002 hearing, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal recommended throwing out the petition.[46]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[47]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 9.20%
State Senate Districts 8.03%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Partisan registration by district

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010
Congressional District[48] Republicans Democrats Unaffiliated Minor Parties District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Hartford Metropolitan Area) - - - - - -
2 (Eastern Connecticut) - - - - - -
3 (New Haven and Naugatuck Valley) - - - - - -
4 (Fairfield County) - - - - - -
5 (Litchfield and Hartford Counties) - - - - - -
State Totals 438,473 794,512 904,054 13,594 2,150,633 12.12% Unaffiliated 5 D, 0 R 3 D, 0 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Connecticut Constitution states in Article III, Section 5 that "The establishment of districts in the general assembly shall be consistent with federal constitutional standards."

Constitutional Amendment 16, Sect. 2 (1980) lays out the guidelines for the creation of a reapportionment committee by the Connecticut General Assembly.[49]

See also

External links


  1. Connecticut General Assembly, Reapportionment Committee, "FAQs," accessed June 16, 2011
  2. The Bristol Press, "Nafis named to redistricting committee," January 3, 2011
  3. Stamford Advocate, "Conn. lawmakers start redistricting process," April 8, 2011
  4. Connecticut Post, "Population growth means redistricting likely for state's General Assembly, congressional districts," April 10, 2011
  5. Raising Hale, "Census announcement kicks off redistricting process," December 21, 2010
  6. Raising Hale, "2nd District will shrink in size, 4th will get geographically bigger based on 2008 estimates," December 23, 2010
  7. Raising Hale, "Redistricting 2001 came down to the wire, remembered as intense but cooperative," December 22, 2010
  8. The Republic, "Conn. redistricting committee accepting public input until Aug. 31; faces Sept. 15 deadline," August 17, 2011
  9. Connecticut Post, "Legislative leaders: Redistricting panel will disband, start over," September 13, 2011
  10. Houston Chronicle, "Conn. lawmakers need more time for redistricting," September 13, 2011
  11. Connecticut Post, "Redistricting Committee may miss Sept. 15 deadline," September 9, 2011
  12. NBC Connecticut, "Candidate Wants Speaker Off Redistricting Panel," September 14, 2011
  13. Washington Examiner, "Conn. redistricting panel chooses ninth member," November 3, 2011
  14. Raising Hale, "Census Bureau releases 2010 data for Connecticut," March 10, 2011
  15., "Census Bureau releases 2010 data for Connecticut ," March 10, 2011
  16. The Hour, "Census 2010: Norwalk grows by 3.2% to 85,603," March 10, 2011
  17. CT News Junkie, "OP-ED | Redistricting 2012 — A Possible Scenario," March 11, 2011
  18., "2nd Congressional District could be getting smaller," July 11, 2011
  19., "Redistricting may pose threat to Democratic stronghold," April 27, 2011
  20. Norwich Bulletin, "Ray Hackett: Redistricting can shape race for Congress," July 9, 2011
  21., "Connecticut House Speaker Donovan quits redistricting panel," November 30, 2011
  22. Westport Now, "Legislators Get 15 Days to Finish Congressional Map," December 6, 2011
  23. The Republic, "Conn. redistricting heading to high court after panel fails to agree on redrawing districts," December 21, 2011
  24. Hartford Courtant, "Lawmakers Can't Agree On New Congressional Districts, Send Decision To State Supreme Court," December 21, 2011
  25. The Republic, "Conn. Supreme Court to appoint special master to handle stalled congressional redistricting," December 27, 2011
  26. Connecticut Mirror, "Court orders redistricting commission back to work," December 27, 2011
  27. Wall Street Journal, "Conn. court picks special master for redistricting," December 30, 2011
  28. CT News Junkie, "Attorneys Argue Over Where Special Master Should Start," December 30, 2011
  29. Connecticut News Junkie, "Court Instructs Redistricting Special Master," January 5, 2012
  30. CT News Junkie, "Special Master Gets A History Lesson In CT Redistricting," January 9, 2012
  31. Newsday, "Conn. special master receives redistricting input," January 9, 2012 (dead link)
  32. Stratford Star, "State district map drawn with ‘perfect population equality,’ says special master," January 20, 2012 (dead link)
  33. 33.0 33.1 New Haven Register, "Connecticut special master on redistricting recommends congressional districts close to existing borders," January 13, 2012
  34. CT News Junkie, "Special Master’s Redistricting Plan Changes Little," January 13, 2012
  35., "Conn. Supreme Court to hear redistricting plan," February 6, 2012 (dead link)
  36. News Times, "Court hears pleas on Ct. redistricting plan," February 6, 2012
  37. The Day, "Congressional map wins court approval; 2nd District smaller," February 11, 2012
  38. Hartford Courant, "Conn. lawmakers approaching redistricting deadline," November 25, 2011
  39. The Connecticut Mirror, "Redistricting: House reaches deal, while Senate talks continue," November 28, 2011
  40. The Hour, "Malloy turns up the heat on redistricting panel," November 27, 2011
  41. Connecticut Mirror, "State legislative districts approved; congressional map goes to court," November 30, 2011
  42. Connecticut Post, "NAACP to sue over redistricting," April 12, 2012
  43. Fairvote Archive, "Connecticut's Redistricting News:(December 29, 2000-July 23, 2001)," accessed February 2, 2011
  44. Fairvote Archive, "Connecticut's Redistricting News: (July 17, 2001-October 20, 2001)," accessed February 2, 2011
  45. Fairvote Archive, "Connecticut's Redistricting News (November 19-December 5, 2001)," accessed February 2, 2011
  46. Fairvote Archive, "Connecticut's Redistricting News," accessed February 2, 2011
  47. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011
  48. Connecticut Secretary of State, "Connecticut Congressional Districts," accessed December 29, 2010
  49. Connecticut State Library" "Constitution of the State of Connecticut" Article XVI, Section 2