A Senate Bill that would establish an Independent Redistricting Commission that will take the redrawing of the state senate and representative district after each decennial census out of the hands of the partisan hands in the General Assembly is back passed the Senate in 2013 on a party line vote at the time, 13 Democrats voted in favor, and 7 Republicans voted against. But the bill died in the House.
An identical bill was reintroduced in the 2014-2016 session, but it didn’t even get a vote in the Senate.
Now, Independent Redistricting Reform is back, but with three Republican sponsors this time: Senators Pettyjohn and Delcollo and Representative Spiegelman. Both Spiegelman and Pettyjohn were in the GA back in 2013, while Delcollo was just elected last year. Pettyjohn was absent during the vote in the Senate in 2013. Does this increase the chances that the Senate and House will pass it? In the Senate, as before, I say yes. In the House, the situation remains doubtful, as Speaker Schwartzkopf enjoys having the tool of redistricting at his disposal.
What will this bill do? Create an independent commission that will be responsible for redistricting. And creating that commission is a massively detailed process, which the bill addresses. The bill would create a pool of twenty-four potential Commission members that will be selected by a bipartisan judicial panel from applications filed with the Commissioner of Elections. The pool will consist of eight current or former Delaware attorneys or former Delaware judges and sixteen other citizens of Delaware. The pool must include eight candidates from each of the State’s two largest political parties and eight candidates that are not a member of either of the State’s two largest parties. Prior to selection of Commission members, the following individuals shall each have the opportunity to strike one candidate from the pool: the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Senate Minority Leader. From the pool of remaining candidates, the Secretary of State will draw by lot until the following conditions are satisfied: 1) The Commission will have nine members, three of whom must be current or former attorneys or former Delaware judges, and six of whom must be other Delaware citizens. 2) Three members of the Commission shall be members of the State’s largest political party, three shall be members of the State’s second largest political party, and the remaining three shall not be a member of either of the State’s two largest political parties. Eligible candidates may not be, and may not have in the five years prior to appointment been, a federal or state lobbyist, an officer of a federal or state political party, an officer of a campaign committee, or an elected federal or state official.
Commissioners are also prohibited from running for the General Assembly in the election following the redistricting, and from registering as a federal or state lobbyist for five years following the term as a Commissioner.
The Commission would then create a preliminary redistricting plan must be prepared by the Commission for public distribution, and four public hearings must be held before a Final Redistricting Plan and Report is approved by the Commission. The Delaware Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to resolve challenges to the Final Redistricting Plan adopted by the Commission.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE REDISTRICTING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
SPONSORS: Townsend, Pettyjohn, Delcollo, Williams, Bushweller, Henry, Sokola, Hansen, Baumbach, Bentz, Kowalko, Osienski, Spiegelman
YES VOTES: [SENATE] Bushweller, Delcollo, Ennis, Hansen, Henry, McBride, McDowell, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola, Townsend, Walsh
NO VOTES: [SENATE] Bonini, Hocker, Lavelle, Lawson, Lopez, Richardson, Simpson (Cloutier did not vote, Marshall was absent).
HISTORY: Passed the Senate 12-7-1-1. Assigned to House Administration Committee.
STATUS: Waiting for a hearing in committee.
YES! Make it happen, political gerrymandering is a plague that must die, preferably screaming. Politicians cannot resist the urge to play games with redistricting and never, ever are they held accountable (sound familiar?). Like so many other things to make it right remove the politics and the politicians.
Has anyone been following the Regional Redistricting compact that Maryland put into their recent redistricting law? Basically, they said they’d do it as long as PA, NY, NJ, NC, VA do it too. I was puzzled by this until it occurred to me that this approach could wipe out any regional advantage the GOP could get from this process. I would suspect that MD would get a little redder with an independent redistricting. PA would definitely get bluer. And it is also a way to campaign against the GOP across a region for not being interested in fairer redistricting. (And campaigning against status quo Dems).
But kudos to this bill from Townsend.