Delaware's Redistricting News
Deleware State News: "Dover, Delaware, redistricting draws little opposition." February 25, 2004
Delaware State News: "Delaware redistricting plan passes." April 19, 2002
News Journal: "Redistricting map may bring lawsuit." April 16, 2002
News Journal: "House releases new map." April 13, 2002
News Journal: "Redistricting map may soon be unveiled." April 11, 2002
Delaware State News: "Dover, Delaware district lines won't change in 2003." March 13, 2002
Delaware State News: "Battle on as Senate rejects growth of Delaware General Assembly." January 23, 2002
Delaware State News: "Democrats offer Delaware redistricting plan." January 11, 2002
Delaware State News: "Redistricting Tops Delaware Legislature Agenda." January 2, 2001
Delaware State News: "Redistricting in Delaware Undecided." November 20, 2001
Deleware State News: "Delaware House Plans Nov. 1 Redistricting Session." October 24, 2001
Delaware State News: "Redistricting Battle Looms in Delaware General Assembly." October 23, 2001
Delaware State News: "Delaware GOP Senators Air Districting Plan." October 17, 2001
Delaware State News : "Delaware Redistricting Reviews Mixed." October 10, 2001
Delaware State News: "Senate GOP plan calls for two new seats in Delaware." September 17, 2001
Delaware State News: "Legislative districts redrawn in Delaware." September 5, 2001
Despite the flap created by one councilman, Dover's redistricting proposal continues to steam toward adoption with virtually no resistance.
Councilman Robert G. Ritter Jr. has been steadfast in his opposition to the plan because it would split a neighborhood and remove part of it from his district.
Under the proposal, the Edgehill neighborhood would be divided, with part moving from the 3rd to the 2nd District.
"I just hate to lose any constituents," said Mr. Ritter, who represents the 3rd District. "I have received several phone calls from residents (who are concerned)."
But no one spoke against the redistricting proposal at Monday's public hearing, and other community representatives do not share Mr. Ritter's concerns.
"A lot of people have a tough time making it out," Mr. Ritter said of the lack of turnout for Monday's hearing.
But Councilman William P. Truitt, who also represents the 3rd District, said he has not received a single phone call concerning the proposed districts.
"This has nothing to do with Edgehill," Mr. Truitt said Tuesday. "Edgehill is a community by itself."
Edgehill Civic Association president Emory Streets said the redistricting would not affect the organization, a contention made by Mr. Ritter at an earlier meeting.
"None of the Edgehill Civic Association members are upset about it," Mr. Streets said. "We can still retain the civic association.
"We know it's something that has to be done every 10 years. I think the only one who's upset is Mr. Ritter."
By law, Dover must redraw its four election districts every 10 years based on the most recent federal census. The city also is required to maintain a 65-percent minority district.
The process was delayed two years due to an error that placed 3,000 residents on the Garrison farm along White Oak Road.
The city's election board approved a plan that would split Edgehill, moving the part of the neighborhood south of North Little Creek Road from Mr. Ritter's 3rd District into the 2nd District.
During a recent interview, Mr. Ritter said the board's proposal was politically motivated and was an effort to "get my vote count down."
Mr. Ritter lived in Edgehill when first elected to council in 2001. Last month, he proposed two alternatives that would have kept the entire Edgehill neighborhood in the 3rd District, but neither plan was considered.
Mr. Truitt questioned the ethics of a council member bringing district proposals forward.
"I don't think I have any right to say anything to the election board's proposal," he said. "We either accept it or we don't.
"It's their job to do it - not council."
Election board chairman Thomas J. Leary, a former councilman, was the only speaker at Monday's public hearing.
Mr. Leary said the board followed two main criteria laid out in the city charter - keep all four election districts relatively the same population and maintain a 65-percent minority district.
"We did consider commonalties of interest in drawing the districts, including neighborhoods," he said. "We kept the districts as nonpolitical as possible so they hold to a high legal standard."
Council will vote on the proposal at its March 8 meeting.
After more than a year of debate, the General Assembly approved a redistricting bill Thursday, but the measure may face legal challenges from disgruntled lawmakers.
The plan passed the House of Representatives by a 30-11 margin and cleared the Senate on a unanimous vote.
The legislature's action means the Court of Chancery will not be drawing new districts, but several lawmakers indicated legal action would be forthcoming. Court of Chancery Chancellor William B. Chandler III would have taken over had lawmakers not reached an agreement Thursday.
"I am very pleased," Chancellor Chandler said. "I will work with counsel to resolve the remaining issues in a prompt and timely manner."
Attorneys in the lawsuit filed by Odessa activist Frank Sims against the General Assembly have until noon Monday to submit arguments on Mr. Sims' request to allow voters to switch party affiliations. The deadline was March 1.
The new maps keep the House at 41 members and the Senate at 21.
Rep. Shirley A. Price, D-Millville, and Rep. Charles P. West, D-Gumboro, were given separate districts. A House proposal released last week put the veteran legislators in the same district.
An open House district slated to run from Dewey Beach to Fenwick Island was dissolved, most of it going to Rep. Price.
There is an open seat in the Rehoboth-Henlopen Acres area, but Lewes was given back to Rep. John R. Schroeder, D-Lewes. The House had proposed to take away Lewes from Rep. Schroeder and use it as part of an open district.
"I am very grateful to have my hometown back," Rep. Schroeder said.
Senate Majority Leader Thurman G. Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville, said he worked with the House to separate Rep. Price and Rep. West, and return Lewes to Rep. Schroeder.
"As majority leader in the Senate, I was the only one who could help them because they are in the minority in the House," he said. "It made no sense to combine Price and West because there was population growth down there."
The approved plan did not completely satisfy Rep. West, who was irritated that he was losing part of his district to Rep. Price.
"At first, they took out part of my district," Rep. West said. "Then they took her out of my district, but they also took out more of my district. I think if we had more time I would end up in a completely new district."
In exchange for the Sussex County concessions, the Democrat-controlled Senate separated Sen. Dallas Winslow, R-Talley Hill, and Sen. Catherine L. Cloutier, R-Heatherbrooke.
No Senate incumbents will face each other in November.
"After all the arguing, debating, cussing and kicking we had to go through, we were able to accommodate every member of the Senate," said Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest.
The House map, however, combines six incumbents into three districts in New Castle County, which angered Sen. Sharp.
"It's a disgrace," he said. "It's a disgrace the way they treated the incumbents in New Castle."
Rep. Richard A. DiLiberto, D-Newark East, is barely included in a district with Rep. Joseph E. Miro, R-Pike Creek Valley. Rep. DiLiberto's current district is split between six others, all represented by Republicans.
Rep. DiLiberto indicated he would file suit to overturn the plan because the map does not use rivers, streets or other physical boundaries, as required by law. Instead it uses "nonvisible boundary lines," he said, adding his constituents have been disenfranchised.
A suit will likely come from Rep. Hazel D. Plant, D-Wilmington Central, and Rep. Arthur L. Scott, D-Wilmington East. The two black lawmakers were combined into one district because of population decreases in the area.
Despite the plan increasing the minority districts from three to four, Rep. Scott alleged he and Rep. Plant were combined for racial reasons.
"When whites get a cold, blacks get pneumonia," Rep. Scott said. "Various members have made their own deals to get their fair share of the pie. We in the minority have no one to turn to except the federal government when deals get struck in the General Assembly.
"It seems some people down here only represent the good old boys network. This is just the beginning, but rest assured, it's not the end."
The other set of New Castle incumbents combined are House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North, and Rep. David D. Brady, D-Claymont. Rep. Smith defended the plan's constitutionality.
"This meets every legal standard," Rep. Smith said. "We have every confidence that it meets every legal requirement at both the state and federal level."
Senate Minority Leader Steven H. Amick, R-Newark West, said he will consult legal counsel about the maps' legality before making a decision on filing suit.
To become law, the redistricting bill needs to be signed by Democratic Gov.
Ruth Ann Minner, who was in Washington Thursday night. She has said her staff will review the maps to make sure they pass constitutional muster before she signs the bill.
The House and Senate were mired in a stalemate over the House's desire to increase from 41 to 45 members. Lawmakers had set a deadline of June 30, 2001, to complete redistricting, but the dispute prevented an agreement. The House later offered to go to just 43 seats, but Senate Democrats rejected that proposal.
House Speaker Terry R. Spence, R-Stratford, reminded lawmakers the process would have been much easier if the Senate had allowed the House to grow. No incumbents would have faced each other in the 45-seat map and lawmakers would have kept most of their current districts.
"Had the Senate Democrats bought into our 45 plan, all the heartaches and all the problems would not have existed," Rep. Spence said.
"Had we been able to pass a 43 plan, there would have been some heartache. Unfortunately, 41 was the only thing the Senate would accept."
Joe Rogalsky can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected]
If a plan to remap the House of Representatives passes the way it's drawn up, Rep. Hazel Plant said, there could be another round in the state's yearlong redistricting fight.
House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, R-Clair Manor, said a vote on that map is planned for today.
Plant, D-Wilmington Central, said Monday the current plan would be challenged for violating the Voting Rights Act.
"I think what they've done is underhanded," Plant said. "It's very, very bad for the city of Wilmington and the minority community."
Under the plan, Plant would be paired with Rep. Arthur Scott, D-Wilmington East. Scott did not return a telephone message seeking comment on the situation.
Plant and Scott are two of three black lawmakers serving in the House.
But Smith said he's not worried about the suit.
"I take Mrs. Plant at her word and I take her seriously," Smith said. "I would say there's probably a 100 percent chance there will be a suit and zero percent chance of success. It's not about who the representatives are, it's about the numbers."
Smith said the House plan introduced Friday creates a new district in which minorities make up the majority of the Wilmington-area population.
Lawmakers are under a Superior Court order to have a map in place by Thursday or give control of the once-a-decade mapmaking process to Chancery Court. Maps must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts uncovered in the U.S. Census. During the 1990s, population boomed in lower New Castle and coastal Sussex counties.
To reflect the shifts, the House map creates a new seat in the Bear area and two new seats in coastal Sussex County.
Samuel Guy, the Wilmington lawyer representing Plant and Scott, has asked the courts to review the maps for fairness to the state's minority population. Guy disagrees with Smith's claim, saying the House plan dilutes minority representation.
Senate Majority Leader Thurman Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville, said he hopes the General Assembly can come together and meet the deadline.
But he said the House plan has left that issue in doubt. Besides Scott and Plant, the House GOP plan pairs two other incumbent Democrats - Shirley Price of Millville and Charles West of Gumboro.
"I'd hate to have the chancellor step in and do this - it's the job of the Legislature to draw the maps," Adams said. "But if we can't sit together and think clearly about these issues, it may become a job for the court."
Smith said he thinks the map will be passed in the end because Senate President Pro Tem Thomas Sharp, D-Pinecrest, said the Senate would accept any legal 41-seat House plan.
Besides the incumbent Democrats, two other House districts could force faceoffs between current Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
In the Newark area, Rep. Richard A. DiLiberto Jr., D-Newark East, and Rep. Joe Miro, R-Foxfire, are paired. In northern New Castle County, Smith must face Rep. David Brady, D-Claymont.
Until the courts issued the order on April 4, lawmakers had been deadlocked for almost a year over House plans to grow from 41 to 45 seats. In Delaware, lawmakers draw their own maps and decide how many members they should have.
The House plans were thwarted by the Democrat-controlled Senate, which refused to consider any expansion plans.
"In the end, Sen. Sharp got what he wanted. ... I don't think anyone is happy with this map," Smith said. "But I think a lot of us, myself included, know we have to live with it."
"If I had one message I could give the people of Delaware, it would be this - you can draw a map where no incumbent is forced to run against another incumbent," Guy said.
Reach Patrick Jackson at 678-4274 or [email protected].
House Republicans released a 41-seat redistricting map Friday that would subtract three districts from northern New Castle County to create new ones in the Bear, Middletown-Odessa and Rehoboth Beach areas.
The changes in the long-awaited map from the majority party in the House also would force eight incumbent lawmakers to square off in races in four redesigned districts.
One of those eight is House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Clair Manor, who said he expects the House to vote on the map Tuesday - the first day back after a two-week Easter break.
The General Assembly must agree on redistricting maps by Friday or surrender the job to Chancery Court under a court order issued April 5 in a lawsuit filed to force a break in a yearlong stalemate on redistricting.
States must draw new legislative district lines after each federal census to reflect population shifts and ensure equal representation.
The district consolidations in the House map reflect slower growth in the 1990s in Wilmington, Brandywine Hundred and east of Newark. The new districts will adjust for rapid growth south of I-95, especially in Sussex County and southern New Castle County.
The House map would:
� Relocate the 5th District in Wilmington to Bear and adjust the boundaries of the 2nd and 3rd districts in Wilmington to absorb areas previously in the 5th District.
Rep. Helene M. Keeley, a Republican, is the incumbent in the 5th District and she would need to run in the new 3rd District, which absorbs most of her old territory.
Rep. Arthur L. Scott, a Democrat from the 3rd District in Wilmington, would now live within the redesigned 2nd District, as would the current 2nd District incumbent, Rep. Hazel D. Plant. They would need to battle in a primary.
� The 8th district in Brandywine Hundred would be absorbed by an enlarged 7th District and a redesigned 11th District. A new 8th District would emerge in the high-growth Middletown-Odessa area.
The new lines in Brandywine Hundred would force Smith, the Clair Manor incumbent in the 7th, to run against Democratic Rep. David D. Brady, the Claymont incumbent who would live within the new 7th District.
� The 14th District around Newark now represented by Rep. Richard A. DiLiberto Jr., D-Newark East, would be absorbed by surrounding districts. A new 14th District would be created in eastern Sussex County in an area including Rehoboth Beach and Lewes.
That change would force DiLiberto to run in the 22nd District now held by Rep. Joseph E. Miro, R-Foxfire.
� The 38th District would move east along the Sussex coastline, leaving Rep. Shirley A. Price, D-Millville, and Rep. Charles P. West, D-Gumboro, to face off in a redesigned 41st district and leaving the 38th district without an incumbent.
Other changes include adding the Southbridge section of Wilmington to the 16th District, which gives it a population that is more than 50 percent black. That seat also would represent part of New Castle.
Samuel Guy, who represented Plant and Scott in the lawsuit filed by Odessa activist Frank Sims, filed a letter Friday with judges hearing the case in Chancery and Superior courts, saying in part, "It is apparent that the system of electing members to the General Assembly provides black state of Delaware citizens with less opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of choice."
Guy could not be reached Friday. Charles Brittingham, president of the state's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also could not be reached.
Nancy Bastidas of the Latino Fair Redistricting Committee of Delaware said her organization maintains that population growth and reapportionment configurations call for a district with 28 percent Hispanic concentration in Wilmington. The proposed 3rd District has a 22.8 percent Hispanic makeup.
"We've got to call our legislators and let them know our point of view on that percentage," she said.
Smith said Republicans fashioned the map with an eye on areas undergoing expansion.
"We wanted to sprinkle the open seats in those areas likely to experience the new growth," he said.
Brady said he doesn't fault Republicans for the map, but won't vote for it. It cuts Claymont into four districts, he said, and would leave him in an area with no common community interest. A race against Smith also wouldn't be fun.
"Having to run against the majority leader is not going to be an easy task," he said. "I don't relish that idea."
Miro said Friday that he would vote in favor of the map, even though it puts him in a challenge with DiLiberto.
"You have to change the lines," he said. "When you do that, this is what happens."
House Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan, D-Sherwood Park, said the political nature of the redistricting process makes winners out of the majority parties - Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate.
Senate Democrats have drawn a 21-seat map that merges two Brandywine Hundred districts currently held by Republicans.
Delaware's redistricting process calls for each chamber to develop its own map. They are combined into one bill that requires approval by both chambers and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's signature.
The House map has been a logjam in the redistricting process. Republican state representatives had long insisted on a 45-seat House map. Democrats refused to support an expansion. Sims sued in January to force a resolution, which led to a Chancery Court decision this month that gave lawmakers until April 19 to fashion a 41-seat map or live with one imposed by the court.
Reach Mary Allen at 678-4275 or [email protected].
Republican members of the state House of Representatives could make public as early as today a redistricting map that keeps their chamber at 41 seats, officials said.
House Republicans met privately Wednesday and reviewed the map, House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Clair Manor said. The plan may undergo slight changes before it is unveiled to the public.
"We've still got some nipping and tucking to do," he said.
Smith said he expects the House to pass a redistricting plan as early as Tuesday, the first day back after the Legislature's Easter break.
That means the redistricting debate that has gone unresolved for a year finally may end. The new map would set clear district boundaries for people who want to seek election in the fall and avert Chancery Court's getting more involved in the dispute.
Last week, the court gave legislators until April 19 to approve a 41-seat map for the House or live with one imposed by the court.
Smith said the map would consolidate some districts, although he would not identify which ones until it is released to the public. That could happen today or Friday.
The map also would create a new minority district in Wilmington, bringing to four the number of House districts where more than half the residents are minorities, Smith said.
Charles Brittingham, president of the state's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had not yet seen the map Wednesday, but he was pleased to hear it included a new minority district. His organization has wanted to see boundary lines drawn "so that all citizens will have fair representation, particularly African-Americans and people of color," he said.
States must draw new legislative district lines after each federal census to reflect population shifts and ensure equal representation.
House Republicans are key to the process because they represent the majority party for that chamber.
The House map has been a logjam in the redistricting process. Republican state representatives long have insisted on a 45-seat House map.
Democrats, who hold the majority of seats in the state Senate, opposed an expansion of seats in the House.
Odessa activist Frank Sims sued lawmakers in January to force a resolution. He said Wednesday he felt as if the case helped save Delaware taxpayers millions of dollars, because it also stopped the House from growing by four seats.
"That's good news," Sims said of the 41-seat map. "I am surprised. I didn't think they could work it out."
His lawsuit led to the Chancery Court decision.
Delaware's redistricting process calls for the Senate and House to develop its own maps, which are combined into one bill that requires approval by both chambers and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's signature.
Reach Mary Allen at 678-4275 or [email protected].
The city's election district lines may remain unchanged for an additional year to allow the correction of several miscounts in the 2000 census.
The city legislative and finance committee unanimously accepted the legal recommendation Tuesday to leave the city's four districts unchanged for the upcoming 2003 election.
Redrawing the boundaries for the 2004 election would be contingent upon the results of a correction request with the U.S. Census Bureau.
"We are going to hold for a year, then have that (time) to use the correct data (for redistricting)," said Councilman Robert G. Ritter Jr.
Councilman Bruce T. Gorman said changes to the district lines would be pending corrections by the Census Bureau.
Dover's planning department discovered possible errors in 34 of the city's 542 census blocks in the 2000 census.
The biggest mistake was at the Garrison farm, where 3,000 people suddenly appeared - a 2,606-person increase from the 1990 census.
The errors came to light in November, when the city election board presented its proposed election districts to council.
As a result of the redistricting with faulty data, Mr. Ritter would have been placed into the 2nd District, and into a 2003 election against fellow incumbent Eugene B. Ruane. That issue would be rendered moot by using the 1990 district borders for the 2003 race.
Council decided last month to seek redress with the Census Bureau, but was told that results would likely come after the charter-imposed deadline of May 1 for drawing the new election districts.
The charter requires the city to use the most recent census figures to draw the districts at least every 10 years. Dover is also under a court order to make one district at least 65 percent minority.
In a memo to the city, Deputy City Solicitor William W. Pepper Sr. recommended the city "make no changes in the current districts until the Census Bureau resolves the appeal."
Mr. Pepper said the census situation is similar to a litigation setting. If the court is asked to re-examine the original decision with a new trial, "the matter is not final until the court rules on the motion for a new trial."
Thus, Mr. Pepper said, the census count is not final.
Mr. Gorman said council could have the districts redrawn with corrected data for the 2004 elections.
Delaware State News
With the threat of court action looming, the Democrat-controlled Senate fired another volley in the continuing redistricting impasse Tuesday.
Voting along party lines, a reapportionment bill to keep the General Assembly at 62 seats passed 13-8.
Republicans have proposed increasing the House of Representatives from 41 to 45 members and the Senate from 21 to 23, but Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest, has blocked any attempts to add seats.
At a time when the state is denying public employees raises and cutting spending, Sen. Sharp said, the General Assembly should not be expanding and driving up the cost of government.
"We do not think it is fair to the taxpayers of our state," he said.
"It simply is not time."
Republicans said more seats should be added because the state's population had grown 18 percent the past decade. The added constituents mean more work for lawmakers, and reducing a legislator's workload would result in better lawmaking, said Sen. Steven H. Amick, R-Newark West, the minority leader.
The plan passed by the Senate lacked sufficient input from Republicans, Sen. Amick said, and did not do enough for ethnic minority voters.
"The people of this state have long ago confined this bill to the trash heap of partisan politics," he told colleagues. "This is not the Senate's plan - it is a partisan plan."
Sen. Sharp dismissed the argument that lawmakers were overworked, saying the 61 legislators each represent an average of 12,647 constituents, the 11th-lowest number in the country.
Any attempts to boost the General Assembly's membership, Sen. Sharp argued, were ways to prevent incumbents from losing their seats.
House leaders dismissed the plan's chances of passing in its current form, decrying it as a partisan measure.
The House passed its version last year with bipartisan support, but it is stuck in a Senate committee. The Senate bill could easily meet the same fate and be buried in a House committee.
"The bill the House passed could only be called widely bipartisan," said House Majority Leader Rep. Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North. "I am not surprised at the Senate vote. It was a highly partisan bill."
If the two chambers can't agree, the matter could end up in court.
The issue moved closer to the judiciary last week when state Independent Party chairman Frank Sims filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the General Assembly to act.
The suit maintains that Delawareans' right to a fair election has been infringed because the delays in redistricting have made it difficult for potential challengers to know which district they will be running in in the fall and where they should campaign. If lawmakers don't agree by Feb. 10, the suit asks the courts to intervene and draw the boundaries.
With more than nine months to go before the November elections, Rep. Smith downplayed the probability the courts would want to be involved in the process because before now it was always left to the legislature.
"Judges at any level would be loathe to play a role in the redistricting process," he said. "We are months away from a judge having to intervene. If it comes mid-summer and we haven't agreed, then I think the federal court would start to take a look at it."
The General Assembly is slated to adjourn Thursday for six weeks to work on the state budget. Lawmakers could call a special session during that time to hash out redistricting if an agreement seems near.
"Looking at where we are now, it is not unlikely that we would agree to come back for a special day to decide redistricting," Rep. Smith said.
Sen. John C. Still III, R-Dover North, tried to amend the redistricting plan to require establishing a commission to handle the next redistricting process, which will come after the 2010 U.S. census. The Senate tabled the amendment, effectively killing it. Sen. Still introduced a bill calling for a redistricting commission last year, but the bill has not been acted on or considered, he said.
Delaware State News
In the latest round of the General Assembly's long-running redistricting saga, Senate Democrats introduced a reapportionment bill Thursday that keeps the House of Representatives at 41 districts and does not lump two Dover Republican senators into the same district as a previous plan had done.
"It's a fair plan," said Sen. Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest, the Senate president pro tempore.
"It meets both the spirit and letter of the law. It is a fair plan for the voters of Delaware."
The bill, which Sen. Sharp said would be voted on by the full Senate on Jan. 22, keeps Sen. Colin R.J. Bonini, R-Dover South, and Sen. John C. Still, R-Dover North, in separate districts. The bill does, however, still keep two upstate Republican senators in the same district.
Sen. Still appreciated the bill giving him back his Senate seat, but predicted this is not the last round in the redistricting fight, which could wind up in court if lawmakers can't agree.
"The plan will go to the other side and it will be changed," Sen. Still said. "We have another month to work on this."
Two Downstate lawmakers, Rep. Donna D. Stone, R-Dover South, and Rep. Nancy H. Wagner, R-Dover, had their districts significantly altered by the new plan and would be unlikely to accept the changes, Sen. Still said.
"We still have some work ahead of us," he said.
The two chambers have been mired in disagreement since the House proposed growing from 41 to 45 districts because of the state's population growth. The Senate, however, has demanded the House remain at 41 seats. The state cannot afford to have more lawmakers in the current sour economic climate, Sen. Sharp said.
The new proposal creates a 50 percent minority House district in Dover, Sen. Sharp said. The plan also moves the fourth House district, now occupied by Wilmington Republican Joseph G. DiPinto, into Sussex County.
Rep. Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred-North, downplayed the Senate's new redistricting plan and stuck to the House's demand for 45 seats.
"Nothing's changed," said Rep. Smith, the House's majority leader. "There are still two different points of view. When you look at the chessboard, this was the next obvious move."
All Sen. Sharp really did, Sen. Still argued, was try to create a position for the Senate should the chamber negotiate with the House on redistricting.
As he introduced his redistricting plan, Sen. Sharp did not rule out redrawing the House districts as long as there were 41.
"The House can put a plan forward that changes this, but don't come over here with a plan with more than 41 districts," Sen. Sharp warned.
Delaware State News
With Delaware and the rest of the country anxiously awaiting an economic rebound, money will be on the minds of many lawmakers as they convene the 2002 session of the General Assembly.
But like the proverbial elephant in the room, there's another unpleasant issue looming above lawmakers at Legislative Hall - redistricting.
With all seats in the General Assembly up for grabs in November, and the pending appointment of a new state elections commissioner, Senate Democrats and House Republicans must agree fairly quickly on a legislative redistricting plan. If they don't, a court might do it for them.
"It's an issue and it's not going to go away until it's resolved," said Senate President Pro Tem Thomas Sharp, D-Pinecrest. "It should have been done by now. We are more or less working on borrowed time."
The Republican-led House wants to increase the number of state representatives from 41 to 45 to account for population growth since the 1990 census. The four new districts would be in southern New Castle County, the Bear area, the Georgetown area and coastal Sussex County.
Some House Democrats agree that more seats are needed to maintain close ties between Delaware legislators and their constituents.
Meanwhile, minority Republicans in the Senate have proposed adding two seats to that chamber by carving out new districts in eastern Sussex County and southern New Castle County.
But Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Sharp, say adding any seats to the General Assembly is unnecessary, impractical and expensive. Their plan retains the Senate's 21 seats by combining four Republican districts into two and creating new districts in southern New Castle County and southern Kent County.
"Why do you need more legislators?" Sen. Sharp said. "We're only a state of about 750,000 people; we've got 62 legislators."
Sen. Sharp said Senate districts are twice the size of House districts, but that senators still have close ties to their constituents.
House Speaker Terry Spence, R-Stratford, said there is room for compromise on redistricting. For now, however, he is still pushing for 45 seats.
"I can't say what the Senate would be willing to give us," said Rep. Spence, who hopes that an agreement is reached before the legislature adjourns in February for budget talks.
"Before we take the six-week budget break, we ought to have our redistricting plan," he said. "I think after that, we're probably going to end up in court."
House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North, expects lawmakers to resolve their differences before it gets to that point.
"I'm confident that the citizens of Delaware will be voting for legislators in duly reapportioned districts come next November," he said.
While redistricting appears ripe for arguments, lawmakers tend to agree that there will be less budget haggling than usual.
"Tight budgets always make it easier for a legislature to act," Rep. Smith said. "It's certainly less difficult to tell people 'No' because of tight revenues."
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner ordered state agencies in December to trim almost $24 million from the current fiscal year's budget because of declining revenue projections. She also has told state agencies to submit zero-growth budget proposals for fiscal 2003, for which revenue projections have dropped by $114 million in the past six months to about $2.36 billion.
"Any new initiative is going to have to meet a very high threshold of necessity," Rep. Smith said. "Absent a cure for the common cold, this is not a year that's going to see favor on major new undertakings."
Sen. Sharp agreed that lawmakers will be scrutinizing budget proposals and likely looking for more spending cuts.
"We really are going to be scouting around for every nickel and dime," he said. "But we'll be able to make our cuts in areas that won't be that dramatic and won't have that big of an effect on the general population."
While wrestling with the budget and redistricting in the session that begins Tuesday, lawmakers also will have to deal with a number of other issues, many of them left over from last year's session.
The Minner administration will push to add another piece to its Livable Delaware anti-sprawl initiative, a measure that would allow developers to build at higher densities in urban areas in exchange for agreeing to preserve rural open space.
Other issues carried over from last year include proposals to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, outlaw smoking in most public places, restrict calling by telemarketers, lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for motorists, and allow riverfront gambling in Wilmington.
Delaware State News
Delaware lawmakers said Monday that they are no closer to resolving an impasse over redistricting and a House of Representatives bid to increase its membership from 41 to 45 seats.
"The House has one plan and one plan only,'' said House Majority Leader Rep. Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North. "That plan is 45 seats.''
The General Assembly has 41 representative districts and 21 senatorial districts.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Thurman G. Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville, said the increase is not warranted.
"I think, with the downturn in the economy, that it would send a bad message to the public,'' Sen. Adams said. "We're staying with 41.''
Rep. Smith said the House plan, passed Nov. 1 by a 32-9 vote, calls for increasing the number of seats in the chamber to reflect population shifts in the recent federal census.
"We passed it by a large bipartisan margin,'' he said. "That's where we stand. The next move is up to the Senate. We're charged with redrawing our legislative district, and we've certainly done that. The ball is in the Senate's court now.''
The General Assembly is required by law to redraw district boundaries every 10 years to include adjustments in the state's population. Districts can be reduced in size, eliminated or expanded according to the revised demographics. New districts can also be created.
All changes must be packaged in a bill that is passed by the House and Senate and signed by the governor.
Controller General Russell T. Larson said it costs taxpayers about $60,000 a year to pay for a legislator, plus about $9,500 in "start-up'' expenses when a new district is added.
He said the base salary is $34,100, with extra stipends for committee chairmanships and for serving on joint financial and bond committees.
That does not include the $300,000 each lawmaker is appropriated annually from the Community Transportation Fund.
Previously known as the Suburban Street Fund, the money comes from the state's Transportation Trust Fund. It permits each legislator to spend up to $300,000 in his or her district each year on street and related repairs.
If appropriations remain unchanged, four new legislative seats would add $1.2 million to the $18.6 million earmarked for the Community Transportation Fund.
"The House is saying the districts as they are now would be too big for them to handle with the population increases,'' Sen. Adams said.
"What that says to me is that they're not capable of being senators because we senators already have larger districts to handle.''
Lawmakers from both chambers are expected to address their differences when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, or earlier if a special session is called.
"It's still very possible we could see a special session,'' Sen. Adams said.
Tom Eldred can be reached at 741-8212 or [email protected].
The House of Representatives is scheduled to return to session Nov. 1 to take up the issue of redistricting.
Senate leaders, meanwhile, maintain that as long as the House insists on increasing the size of the General Assembly, there is no reason to reconvene.
"I'm calling the House back in because I don't feel there is anything to be gained by delaying the process further," House Speaker Terry R. Spence, R-Stratford, said Wednesday in a statement.
"We've worked with our Democratic colleagues in the House, taken input from the public, and crafted maps that I believe are both fair and compliant with all election laws."
Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest, said he would not call the Senate back in for a special session until the House presented a plan that keeps the number of representatives at 41.
But House Majority Whip Clifford G. "Biff" Lee, R-Laurel, said the only plan the House has contains 45 districts.
"We have no plan B," he said.
By law, the General Assembly must redraw its legislative districts every 10 years to reflect population shifts revealed by the U.S. census.
The proposed House plan seeks to expand the chamber from 41 to 45 members, with new districts in southern New Castle County, the Bear area, the Georgetown area and coastal Sussex County.
Senate Majority Leader Thurman G. Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville, said he doesn't think any of the proposed plans should be passed, but that House and Senate leadership should sit down and talk before a special session is held.
"There's no point in holding a special session if we don't have anything to discuss," he said.
House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North, said it is still quite possible for the leadership of both chambers to talk about their plans by Nov. 1.
"Seven days is a lifetime in legislative time," he said.
But he said the House does not plan to back down from its plan for 45 districts.
"This is the House plan," he said. "There is no other."
Ken Grant can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected]
The state Senate's ranking Democrat said Monday progress won't be made on redistricting until the House of Representatives gives up on its plan to add four seats to its chamber.
Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest, said he talks to House Speaker Terry R. Spence, R-Stratford, at least once a week, but until the House drops its proposal from 45 to the current 41 seats, he sees no need to schedule a special session.
"People have some notion that there's negotiations going on, but there aren't," Sen. Sharp said.
"When the House calls me and says they have a map with 41 districts, then we'll go over their plan and our plan."
By law, the General Assembly has less than two weeks to come together for a special session to pass redistricting legislation.
Nov. 5 is the deadline, or at least a deadline, for the process to be complete.
Both the Delaware Code and the Constitution require candidates for the House and Senate to live in the district they are running in for at least a year.
That means that when every seat in the General Assembly comes up for re-election Nov. 5, 2002, both incumbents and challengers will have to have lived in their district since at least Nov. 5 of this year - something that may be difficult if the districts are not defined.
The General Assembly already blew past one statutory deadline in this process.
Title 29, Section 805 of the Delaware Code calls for the General Assembly to reapportion the state "not later than June 30."
But June 30 came and went without a single piece of legislation introduced to redraw district lines.
So, why isn't the process complete?
Because some lawmakers want to see an increase in their numbers while others say 62 legislators is plenty for a state the size of Delaware.
"It's a rip-off of the Delaware taxpayer," Sen. Sharp said of the House plan.
Sen. Sharp said the only reason to increase the number of legislators in either chamber is to protect incumbents, especially in northern New Castle County, where populations have not grown as much as other parts of the state.
House leadership, meanwhile, says it does not plan to budge from its plan for 45, and that the additional seats are needed to maintain the legislators' close contact with their constituents.
"When you compare Delaware with other states, one of the things that sets us clearly apart is the access our citizens have to their elected state officials," said House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North.
He said the population of Delaware has grown 43 percent since the last time seats were added to the General Assembly in 1970 and that even with four additional legislators the ideal district will contain 1,200 people more than it would have in 1990.
Sen. Sharp said the House leadership does not seem to be practicing what it normally preaches.
"It seems strange that the Republicans, who are always espousing smaller government and less government spending, are the ones pushing to increase the size and cost of government," he said.
Both sides say they want to get the process completed within the next two weeks.
"I think there's a likelihood we'll come back before the November deadline," Rep. Smith said.
"I think it would be to our great embarrassment if we could not meet this deadline."
Ken Grant can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected].
The small group that showed up Wednesday night at the Milford Senior Center to discuss redistricting had differing views on the process and the number of districts, but agreed on one issue - Milford should have one senator.
The public hearing, called by the Senate Republicans, featured six of the eight members of that caucus. None of the eight Senate Democrats were present.
Much of the discussion from the dozen members of the public concerned how the redistricting plans would impact the Milford area.
Senate Democrats have proposed keeping the chamber at 21 seats, with Milford divided into two districts.
"The district on the northern half would go all the way up to Dover while the southern district would take half of Milford and go all the way down to the beach area," said Milford City Councilman James O'Neill.
Mr. O'Neill said such a split would reduce Milford's political impact.
"You can't take a town like Milford, split it in two, and expect it to keep its clout in Dover," said Judy Caldwell, a Milford resident.
George Parish of Long Neck praised the Republican plan, which calls for two new seats, for adding a district on the Sussex County coast.
"We don't need more voices," he said. "We need more votes."
Several civic organizations have called on the General Assembly to use an independent commission to create the new maps.
Sen. John C. Still III, R-Dover North, sponsored a bill to do that but it was never heard in committee.
He said there would be one way to get legislation passed for redistricting in 2011, since it's too late this year.
"You have to circulate a petition, gather thousands of names and deliver it to the governor, saying that you want it to be part of her agenda next year," he said.
"If the public interest groups do not present a petition to the governor, shame on you."
The General Assembly must redraw legislative districts every 10 years to reflect population changes from a new census.
The new district maps must be in place by Nov. 5 in order for candidates to meet residency requirements.
Legislative leaders still have not called for a special session to discuss the issue.
Ken Grant can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected].
Delaware State News
For the second time in two weeks, the public was given an opportunity to voice its opinions on a proposed redistricting plan.
About 70 members of the public joined nearly 30 members of the House of Representatives in Legislative Hall Wednesday night to discuss the House plan to increase the size of the chamber from 41 to 45 members.
The plan received mixed reviews from the public.
Some criticized the redistricting process, which has caucus leaders draw the maps behind closed doors before presenting them to the public.
"For decades, the legislature has chosen to secretly and covertly realign the voting districts to perpetuate incumbent power at the expense of the citizens' right to a democratic process," said Frank Sims, co-chairman of the Coalition for Fair Elections.
John Flaherty of Common Cause of Delaware has been lobbying for an open redistricting process, gaining the support of about 20 civic organizations.
"The current redistricting process protects incumbents and renders public input meaningless," he said.
Both men echoed the call from David Anderson of Dover for a bipartisan commission to draw new districts.
During his opening remarks, House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North, addressed the issue of independent commissions.
"The process we have undertaken is consistent with state law and House rules," he said.
The plan to increase the chamber by four seats came under fire as well.
Teresa Whitaker, president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Dover, pointed out the increased cost, which controller general Russell T. Larson estimates to be $287,112 for the first year and $235,112 annually after that.
"Does the public agree that these new districts are needed, or do they see other, more pressing needs for public revenue?" Mrs. Whitaker asked.
Linda String of Felton agreed.
"This is not an economic time to spend more money on legislators," she said. "Shall we end up being the smallest state with the largest legislature?"
Others, though, defended the proposed increase, pointing out that the state's population has grown 43 percent since 1970 - the last time the size of the General Assembly increased - and there has been a 17 percent jump in population since 1990.
Richard Sargent of Rehoboth Beach said the new plan would add two representative districts to Sussex County, which has grown 38 percent in the past 10 years.
"Finally, Sussex County gets the representation it deserves," he said.
The plan was also criticized for failing to create any new minority districts, especially in Dover.
"Both political parties continue to want African-American support, but they are not willing to offer equal representation," said Cecil Wilson, president of the NAACP's Central Delaware branch.
Several speakers made reference to a public hearing two weeks ago concerning the Senate Democrats' proposed maps. None of the Senate Democrats attended, but six of the chamber's eight Republicans were present.
The House and Senate have to pass a redistricting plan by Nov. 5 in order to meet the one-year residency requirements for the 2002 elections.
Ken Grant can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected].
Delaware State News
Senate Republicans unveiled a redistricting plan Monday that would add two seats to their chamber.
The plan calls for new districts to be created in southern New Castle County and eastern Sussex County - the two areas with the largest population increases in the state.
"We're proposing a 23-district plan because we found it impossible to preserve the boundaries of many communities given the very substantial shift in population which we've experienced," said Senate Minority Leader Steven H. Amick, R-Newark West.
"Additionally, we're committed to maintaining personal contact with our constituents and the grassroots nature of government in Delaware."
The Senate Republicans were the first of the General Assembly's four caucuses to bring their proposed redistricting maps out from behind closed doors for public scrutiny.
Redistricting is the once-a-decade process lawmakers go through to comply with the Supreme Court's rulings concerning equality of representation.
The year after the U.S. census is taken, members of the General Assembly review the population shifts throughout the state and adjust the border lines accordingly.
A bill is then drafted to reflect the new lines. It has to pass both chambers and be signed into law by the governor by the first week in November. That's so any candidates for the General Assembly - including the incumbents - will be able to meet the one-year residency requirement to run for office the following year.
The process for drawing the new lines, however, is not an open one.
Each caucus takes the census numbers released in March and spends months working on developing the new maps.
Various civic organizations have criticized the process, saying it locks the public out.
"Redistricting is the last vestige of state secrecy," said John Flaherty of Common Cause of Delaware.
"We lobbied to get hearings at the beginning of the process, but neither the House nor the Senate wanted to touch the issue."
Since 1972, the state's House of Representatives has had 41 districts, while the Senate is split into 21.
Now, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House want to see their numbers increase to 45, and Senate Republicans are calling for two more seats.
But Senate Democrats say additional seats are not only not necessary, but financially irresponsible.
"I'm not sure why a state as small as Delaware would need 68 legislators," said Sen. George H. Bunting Jr., D-Bethany Beach.
Senate Democrats argue a proposed increase in the number of districts would lead to millions of dollars being added to the budget for salaries, pensions, office equipment and support staff. Democrats say the only reason for the increase in seats is to protect incumbents in areas where populations remained stagnant since the 1990 census.
But supporters of an increase say the state's population growth requires more members of the General Assembly.
Senate Democrats, who hold a 13-8 majority, plan to open their proposed maps to public scrutiny Wednesday, with a display in the lobby of Legislative Hall followed by a public hearing Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.
Both sides in the Senate agree there will most likely be some negotiating over the two proposals prior to a special session to vote on redistricting.
"We just need to sit down and talk," said Sen. Majority Leader Thurman G. Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville.
Sen. Colin R.J. Bonini, R-Dover South, agreed, saying he hoped the maps proposed by his caucus Monday would provide a good starting point.
"We have to start negotiating from somewhere," he said.
House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine Hundred North, said both parties in his chamber are developing a map with 45 House districts. It will be released to the public "soon," he said.
Ken Grant can be reached at 741-8226 or [email protected].
Delaware State News
Senate Democrats spent hours behind closed doors Wednesday night discussing how the state's legislative districts will be divided during the next decade.
The General Assembly goes through the redistricting process every 10 years, following the release of the U.S. Census numbers, to take into account the population shifts throughout the state.
The new district lines have to be drawn and passed by both chambers before early November so candidates in the 2002 general election can meet the one-year residency requirement.
Since the General Assembly ended its session at the end of June, lawmakers have been waiting to be called back into special session to deal with redistricting.
Senate President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, D-Pinecrest, said he hopes to hold public hearings on the process soon.
"It's been a long, arduous process that's nearing completion," he said.
"We hope to schedule a public hearing in about a week and a half."
Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr., D-Laurel, said he was happy to be going home after the meeting and hopes all of the issues within the 13-member caucus are resolved.
"I don't think there are any (issues) left," he said.
"We're all in agreement, (and) I hope everybody stays that way."
Meanwhile, the eight Senate Republicans, as well as the public, are waiting to see what the proposed maps are like.
"The maps should have been out three months ago," said Sen. F. Gary Simpson, R-Milford.
"It's good for the public to have the maps as soon as possible - keeping them secret gives no one a fair chance at the democratic process."
There's still some more negotiating on the horizon, though, even after the Senate maps are agreed to.
The House of Representatives wants to increase its number from 41 to 45, creating four new districts in the state.
Senate leadership opposes the plan.
Both sides say they have not discussed the differences since July.