Connecticut's high court again taps election law expert to redraw lines
The Connecticut State Supreme Court has again tapped law professor Nathaniel Persily to help redraw the state’s congressional district lines after a legislative commission couldn’t reach a bipartisan agreement and missed its deadline earlier this week.
Persily, who is a law professor at Stanford University and formerly at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions, is an expert on election law. He served as the court appointed expert or special master in 2011 during the last reapportionment process when Connecticut lawmakers also couldn’t reach a deal on congressional district boundaries.
His appointment comes after Democratic and Republican legislative leaders failed to come up with a new congressional map by Tuesday at noon, despite reaching bipartisan agreements on how to change state legislative districts and accommodate population shifts.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Tuesday the lawmakers had faced “external pressures” to redraw the congressional lines in a certain way.
“This is bigger than Connecticut. It has national implications, potentially. And so, I think for a lot of us, we’re hearing from people down in Washington about what they think, and I think there’s a lot less appetite for agreement, given the level of stress and toxicity in that environment,” he said. “I think both sides feel it.”
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, however, blamed the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation for the process falling apart, accusing the five U.S. House members of wanting to retain safe districts.
Persily has also served as a court-appointed expert to craft congressional or legislative redistricting plans in Maryland, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to his Stanford Law School biography.
In a notice released Thursday afternoon, the Connecticut Supreme Court announced its appointment of Persily and said he is “empowered and charged with the duty to prepare and recommend to the Court a report, including a proposed congressional redistricting map for the state of Connecticut” that the court can ultimately adopt.
He will hold proceedings from Dec. 28 through Jan. 11, the notice said. Interested parties will have until the close of business on Jan. 4 to submit any proposed redistricting maps, supporting documentation, data and briefs. Persily is then required to hold a virtual hearing, where interested parties or the public can testify.
Persily is ultimately required to submit his plan to the court on or before Jan. 18. The court will then accept submissions up until Jan. 24 and a hearing before the court is planned for Jan. 27. The court is expected to file its redistricting plan with the Office of the Secretary of the State by Feb. 15.
Despite Persily’s appointment, the court on Thursday encouraged the state legislators to continue working on a compromise plan, noting that the justices “maintain hope that action by the commission will be forthcoming.”
If they end up reaching a consensus, the lawmakers are instructed to inform the court and submit their plan to the justices and Persily for consideration.
The Connecticut Supreme Court included some instructions for Persily in its notice on Thursday. For example, he must “modify the existing congressional districts only to the extent reasonably required” to make sure they're as “equal in population as practicable," are comprised of “contiguous territory” and comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and any other applicable federal law.
Persily is also not allowed to consider where the incumbent members of Congress live or other political data, including party registration statistics or election returns.