“One Man, One Vote” or “Why Redistricting?”
On May 6, 2013, the Board of Alderman approved the redistricting of the five municipal districts in the City. This means that where many people vote and who represents them on the Board of Alderman, Board of Education and Planning & Zoning changed. The Registrar of Voters office implemented the changes and, at the start of August, notified these impacted voters of their new polling places.
But why redistrict?
Connecticut Statute Chapter 146, Section 9-169f requires local legislative bodies (in our case, the Board of Aldermen) to reapportion the districts. That is, based on the results of the most recent census, we must modify the districts so that the number of people in each district is as close to even as possible. Note, this is number of people, not necessarily voters. Areas can only be moved as census blocks, which makes getting to those even numbers somewhat challenging.
On a larger level, the idea of having equal size districts, in terms of population, goes back to the Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment. As redistrictingonline.org notes:
“Redistricting became mandatory as a matter of federal law after the 1962 Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Carr, which interpreted the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to require that political districts be equal in population so that one person's vote would not weigh more than another person's vote who resides in separate a [sic] district with substantially more population than the first. For example, a voter in a political district with 100,000 residents will have three times more voting power to elect a representative than a voter in a district with 300,000 residents. The court's ruling is known as the “one man, one vote principle.”
While the above specifically references Congressional districts, this logic naturally would extend to other legislative bodies.
In 2012, redistricting went into effect for the 117th, 118th and 119th legislative districts for the CT General Assembly, as well as the 14th CT Senatorial seat — the districts that include Milford. In 2013, the redistricting for the 1st through 5th municipal districts went into effect. These will remain in effect until the next census is completed and redistricting is again implemented to reflect those future changes.
Around 8,000 registered voters were impacted by the 2010 census-triggered redistricting, as well as by the closure of Live Oaks as a polling place. With the newly redrawn lines, Live Oaks was not needed as a polling place and results in significant financial savings for the city.
In implementing the changes, the Registrars of Voters made every effort to keep voters at the same polling place year after year, decreasing the number of folks who had to switch even/odd years substantially.
For our democratic system to work, we need informed citizens who do their civic duty and vote. While the district changes may require some personal adjustments, be proud that we live in a country that is committed to preserving “one person, one vote,” and put the power of that vote to work on November 5, 2013.