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Redistricting in Delaware

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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 Delaware
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Legislative authority
June 30, 2011
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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 Delaware.

Delaware did not gain or lose any seats from the reapportionment after the 2010 census. The state population increased by over 115,000 (nearly 15%), topping 900,000 residents.[1]


The Delaware General Assembly is responsible for redistricting.

The criteria for determining district boundaries is in Section 804 of Title 29, Chapter 8 of the Delaware Code. It states that all districts must, as much as possible, meet the following four criteria:[2]

  • Be formed of contiguous territory;
  • Be nearly equal in population;
  • Be bounded by major roads, streams or other natural boundaries; and
  • Not be created so as to unduly favor any person or political party.


The Delaware Senate sought to open the 2011 redistricting process to the public. To that end, on March 23, 2011, they unanimously passed a resolution to make the process more transparent, including open meetings and public feedback.[3]

Sen. Anthony DeLuca introduced SB 50 which opened all aspects of redistricting to the public. Current law required public hearings, but maps had mostly been draw out of the public's view.[4] The Senate voted 21-0 to approve the bill. Under the measure, all proceedings and internal communication related to redistricting would fall under the Freedom of Information Act.[5]

Independent commission

House Minority Leader Gregory Lavelle said that Republicans were working on legislation that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Sen. Patricia Blevins (D), who previously tried to get such a bill passed, said, "I favor an independent commission, but I don't believe we'll do that for this year's reapportionment. There just doesn't seem to be the legislative will to do it."[6]

Prison-based redistricting

In 2011, Delaware, along with Maryland and New York, was set to alter how they counted their prison populations for redistricting purposes. For the first time, prisoners were to be counted according to their last known addresses, rather than their prison address, which inflated the power of prison districts.

James Whitehorne, assistant chief of the Census Bureau's Redistricting Data Office, said, "It'll be an interesting process to watch and see if they're successful. I do think it will be difficult to do."[7]

In March 2011, the Federal Bureau of Prisons denied Maryland's request for prior residence information on prisoners, citing privacy protections. Despite the state's new law, this forced Maryland to count the prisoners in the district with the prison. To that end, Delaware might also have been denied approval.[8]

Delaware legislators announced in early May their intentions to ignore their 2010 law altering how prisoners were counted, not due to lack of information from the FBI, but because of cost and time constraints. Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf stated the maker of Maptitude, the computer software used to redraw districts, said it would cost $40,000 to $75,000 and two months to alter the program to account for prisoners differently. Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, said lawmakers should have begun earlier, stating, "The frustrating thing about Delaware is this bill was implementable, and it appears they didn't start focusing on the challenges early enough."[9]

2011 exemption

On May 10, 2011, the House passed legislation that exempted the state from having to adhere to the 2010 law regarding prisoners. The vote was 36-3.[10] According to House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D), the Census Bureau did not have data listing last known address of prisoners. Additionally, the software used for redistricting could not integrate prisoners' prior addresses and would have cost at least $70,000 more to properly equip the program. The new procedure for counting prisoners will now take effect with the 2020 redistricting.[11]


The redistricting of House districts was to be led by Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf (D), lead House attorney William G. Bush IV and House Democratic Chief of Staff Erik Schramm.[12]

The Senate planned on having a draft of its redistricting plan by May 12. Public hearings were held on the proposal before a final plan was settled on.[13]

Census results

On March 1, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped Delaware's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders. This data was used to guide redistricting for state and local offices. The data was publicly available for download.[14]

Population changes

These tables show the change in population in the five largest incorporated places and the three counties in Delaware from 2000-2010.[15]

Incorporated Place 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Wilmington city 72,664 70,851 -2.5%
Dover city 32,135 36,047 12.2%
Newark city 28,547 31,454 10.2%
Middletown town 6,161 18,871 206.3%
Smyrna town 5,679 10,023 76.5%
County 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
New Castle 500,267 538,479 7.6%
Sussex 156,638 197,145 25.9%
Kent 126,697 162,310 28.1%

Population shifts

While Delaware did not gain or lose any seats in Congress, significant population shifts within the state threatened to radically alter state House and Senate districts. According to the Delaware Population Consortium, there was a large shift to the southern part of the state, with Sussex County growing by 25% while New Castle County only saw 7% growth.

In response, House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf said, “The question I have is, is [population] shifting to the point or in such numbers that districts close down in one area and reappear in another area? And I don’t know that we’re at that point. I don’t want to start the stampeding that one district is going to close.”[16]

Congressional Maps

Delaware had only one U.S. House seat, and therefore did not require any map changes. The entire state was one district.

Legislative Maps

Figure 1: This is the House Minority Caucus proposal for redistricting the state House districts. It was released on May 17, 2011.

House Democrats accepted public comments on a redistricting plan until April 29, 2011. Their draft plan was subject to a public hearing in May before a final plan was drawn up. House Republicans also worked on their own plan.[17]

Possible districts lost

Wilmington, which had just enough population for two state Senate seats following the 2000 census, lost enough population that it was likely to lose a seat. Additionally, New Castle was expected to lose two House seats and at least one Senate seat.[18]

Deviation of House/Senate districts from ideal

These tables show the top five state House and Senate districts that deviated from the 2010 ideal population. The 2010 ideal population was 21,900 for House districts and 42,759 for the Senate.[18]

Top Five House Districts Deviating from Ideal Population
District 2010 Population Deviation from Ideal Percent from Ideal
8 34,905 13,005 59.4%
9 28,290 6,390 29.2%
29 27,839 5,939 27.1%
15 27,756 5,856 26.7%
7 17,251 -4,649 -21.2%
Top Five Senate Districts Deviating from Ideal Population
District 2010 Population Deviation from Ideal Percent from Ideal
14 59,548 16,789 39.3%
18 54,015 11,256 26.3%
2 33,895 -8,864 -20.7%
15 51,296 8,537 20.0%
5 34,307 -8,452 -19.8%

House map

With comfortable majorities in the Senate and House, Democrats controlled the redistricting process, although Republicans did construct a counter-proposal to Democratic maps.

Democratic map

On May 19, 2011, House Democrats released their proposed redistricting map. According to Peter Schwartzkopf (D), House Majority Leader, the two maps were similar. One difference he pointed out was that the Democratic proposal had four majority-minority districts while the Republicans plan had two. A public hearing was held on May 26 at 7 p.m.[19] The Democratic caucus' proposal would have folded the existing 11th and 20th House districts into neighboring districts. The surrounding districts were between 2,800 and 3,000 below the ideal population size.

Republicans were displeased with the initial map, as it would have pitted two incumbent Republican representatives -- Joseph Miro and Nico Manolakos in the same district.[20] The Senate plan would have put David Sokola (D) and Liane Sorenson (R) into the same district.[21]

Republican map

On May 17, 2011, the minority caucus of Republicans in the House released their proposal (see Figure 1) for the state's 41 districts. According to House Minority Leader Gregory Lavelle (R), the population changes dictated moving districts from the northern part of the state to the south. The map appeared to allow for a possible two-seat gain for Republicans.[22]

Map passed

The House passed its redistricting map on June 28, 2011 on a party line vote. House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf said that no substantial changes were made to the map after public hearings were held. Of the 15 Republican House members, 10 voted no and 5 did not vote. Schwartzkopf said he was not surprised by the Republican vote against the map. The Senate then had to pass the map, although historically, the opposing chamber does not debate the opposite's map.[23]

Senate map

On June 2, 2011, the Senate took public comments in a forum on its redistricting process. About 25 residents attended -- with some blasting the committee for splitting some communities and creating some odd-shaped districts. Still others praised the legislature for opening up the process significantly more than 10 years ago.[24]

The Senate map was approved on June 30, 2011 by a 15-6 vote. Two districts were merged in the northern part of the state in order to make room for a new southern district.[25][26]

Citizen Activism

A four-week long public comment period for the House ran from April 5-29. Citizens were encouraged to send suggestions, plans, and requests to the legislature.

House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D) said, "While this is a very detailed process, we want to involve the public and keep them informed as much as possible."[27]

The Senate encouraged citizens to submit comments, suggestions, and maps via email or U.S. Mail.[13]

Public forum

On May 26, 2011, the House held a public hearing to discuss redistricting. House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D) outlined the plan and provided details on the rationale for the district locations.[28]

Redistricting task force

A coalition of civic activists, including the League of Women Voters and the First State League of United Latin American Citizens, formed a citizen task force on redistricting, which they announced at a press conference on April 27, 2011. They encouraged legislators to keep communities of interest together, namely whole towns, as well as ethnic and racial groups.[29]

Partisan Registration by District

Congressional Districts in November 2010

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010[30]
Congressional District Republicans Democrats Unaffiliated District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Statewide, at-large) 183,301 293,415 146,709 623,425 60.07% Democratic
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.


The Legislature was required to adopt a redistricting plan by June 30, 2011.[31]


Delaware's original constitution, adopted in 1776, provided for an equal number of representatives from each county. Representation based on population did not begin until the constitution of 1897. However, reapportionment efforts aimed at providing equal representation based on population failed for many years.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Carr (1962), the apportionment of Delaware's legislature was challenged, which led the legislature to amend the Constitution. A district court found the new apportionment to be unconstitutional, violating the equal protection clause. The Supreme Court upheld the decision, leaving the legislature without a constitutional provision for legislative apportionment.

Several tries by the legislature led to the reapportionment following the 1970 census, when the district boundaries for the first time ever broke with the boundaries of the three counties and the city of Wilmington. This reapportionment led to a state Senate of composed of 21 members and a House of 41 members, which remains today.[32]

2001 redistricting

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

Delaware legislators spent the summer of 2001 waiting to be called into a special session and laying out plans. One item on the table was a House desire to add four new seats, a plan meeting push back in the Senate. Senate Republicans, though wanted to grow their own number by two. Both chambers had been at the same size, respectively 41 and 21 seats, since 1971. While the House plan had bipartisan support, the upper chamber's growth plan was more one-sided, with Democrats asserting the new seats were unnecessary and financially burdensome.

Open meetings to solicit citizen input continued through the fall, but, even facing a November 5, 2001 deadline to deliver a plan, no special session had been set by mid-October. One reason was the House's continued wish to add new seats, something Senate Democrats explicitly said was a barrier to even beginning the look at the House plan. On November 1, 2001, the House's Republican Speaker, Terry R. Spence called the lower chamber to order, saying he felt there was no point in waiting for Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp to change his mind on the matter of adding seats. That same day, the House passed a bill, 32-9, voting to add the new districts.

After convening for the new year, Democrats in the upper chamber offered their first bill, one which still refused to add new seats in either the House or the Senate. That bill passed 13-8 on a party line vote. Unusually, it was the GOP delegation arguing the insistence on not adding new seats sold ethnic minorities short. As a legislative stalemate aged, the indistinct threat of court action came into focus; Independent Party chairman Frank Sims filed a suit aimed at ordering the Assembly to act. Sims' lawsuit characterized the delay in shaping a bill as an infringement of Delawareans right to a fair vote and sought a February 10, 2002 deadline before the courts took over.

Sims was successful in getting a Chancery Court decision that blocked legislative expansion. The courts also have the House until April 19, 2002 to produce a complete map, on pain of losing control of the process. Republicans did draw that map, unveiling it before the legislature adjourned for Easter. On April 16, 2002, the day set for the vote, Representative Hazel Plant, who was faced with having to fend off a challenge from an incumbent if proposed map with its altered boundaries passed, threatened to sue under the Voting Rights Act.

Finally, on the last final day to handle redistricting themselves, legislators passed a bill, with the House voting 30-11 and the Senate acting unanimously.[33]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[34]
Office Percentage
State House Districts 9.98%
State Senate Districts 9.96%
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.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There were no lawsuits related to the Delaware 2000 census redistricting process.[35]

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Delaware Constitution originally set out details on the composition of the House and Senate in Sections 2 and 2A of Article II. These sections were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 15, 1964. Roman et all. v. Sincock et al. 377 U.S. 395. The composition of the General Assembly is now regulated by statute.

See also

External links


  1. Delaware Online, "Delaware grows 15 percent, tops 900,000," December 22, 2010
  2. Delaware Code, "Title 29, Chapter 8, § 804. Determining district boundaries; criteria"
  3. Washington Post, "Passage of Senate resolution could make redistricting process in Delaware more transparent," March 24, 2011
  4. WDEL DeLuca hopes to open redistricting process to public," April 3, 2011
  5. Delaware Online, "Delaware Senate votes to open up its emails and caucus meetings to the public — for redistricting only," April 12, 2011
  6. The Republic, "Census data for Delaware show largest growth in south, suburban north," March 2, 2011
  7. Kensington Patch, "New Law, Technology Freshen Maryland's Redistricting Process," December 15, 2010 (dead link)
  8. Fox News, "Feds Foil Maryland Redistricting Plan to Count Inmates by Former Home," March 23, 2011
  9. Delaware Online, "Delaware redistricting hits roadblock," May 4, 2011
  10. Community Pub, "Delaware House votes to side-step prisoner redistricting law," May 10, 2011
  11. Delaware Online, "House scraps plan to redistribute prisoner population for redistricting this year," May 10, 2011
  12. WGMD, "DE House begins redistricting process," April 5, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 WGMD, "State Senate’s redistricting process outlined," April 7, 2011
  14. PR Newswire, "Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to Delaware," March 1, 2011
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "Delaware Custom tables 2010," accessed March 2, 2011
  16. Sussex Countian, "Redistricting looms in 2011 General Assembly session," January 12, 2011
  17. Daily Journal, "Delaware lawmakers accepting public comment as they begin work on legislative redistricting," April 25, 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 Delaware Online, "Redistricting to shift political power," March 6, 2011
  19. Newsworks, "House Democrats release Delaware redistricting plan," May 19, 2011
  20. Dover Post, "Delaware House Democrats release redistricting plan," May 19, 2011
  21. Newark Post, "Opinion - Lots of intrigue surrounds redistricting," May 22, 2011
  22. Dover Post, "Delaware House Republicans release redistricting maps," May 17, 2011
  23. Dover Post, "UPDATE: House passes redistricting legislation, Senate vote up next," June 29, 2011
  24. Delaware First, "State Senate hears public comment on its redistricting plan," June 2, 2011 (dead link)
  25. The Republic, "Delaware lawmakers approve legislative redistricting plan for state House, Senate," June 30, 2011
  26. Delaware Online, "General Assembly's pace picks up in late-night flurry," July 1, 2011
  27. Delaware Online, "Comment period opens for redistricting plan," April 5, 2011
  28. Newark Post, "Redistricting hearing slated for May 31st," May 25, 2011
  29. Delaware Online, "Delaware politics: Groups form redistricting task force," April 28, 2011
  30. Delaware Commissioner of Elections, "Elections Voter Registration Totals," November 1, 2010
  31. Cape Gazette, "Statewide voter redistricting set to begin," November 11, 2010
  32. Policy Archive, "Reapportionment Politics: The History of Redistricting in the 50 States," Rose Institute of State and Local Government, January 1981 (pg.68-70)
  33. Fairvote Archive, "Delaware's Redistricting News," accessed February 2, 2011
  34. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011
  35. Minnesota State Senate, "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"