Democratic leaders in the State Senate have published their final proposed Senate maps in advance of a Nov. 1 special session to consider a redistricting bill.
The special session comes just six days before the deadline for both parties to agree on redrawn districts, given that candidates must live in their constituent districts for at least 1 year prior to the Nov. 8, 2022 general election.
The final maps include several changes from the initial drafts published on Monday, Oct. 11. Democratic leaders said the changes were reflective of suggestions made by Delawareans during public comment periods.
Notably, Slaughter Beach was returned to Senate District 18, held by Republican Sen. Dave Wilson.
That move came after the town’s mayor, Kathy Lock, sent a letter to Democratic leadership arguing that relocating the town to Republican Sen. Colin Bonini’s District 16 would be “detrimental to the citizens of our town.”
The final maps also relocate Wilmington’s Midtown Brandywine community to Senate District 1 from Senate District 3 and ensure a neighborhood known as “The Flats” is fully contained within Senate District 3.
There are also minor alterations to Kent and Sussex County Senate Districts to “ensure some of the faster-growing districts in the state are closer to the average population figure for Senate Districts,” according to a Monday press release.
The press release stated that during the Senate’s three open hearings on redistricting, they received 99 public comments.
“Everyone who submitted written comment received a reply from Senate staff and all comments were carefully considered by the redistricting team,” the press release said. “The submissions also prompted the team to revisit all of Delaware’s communities of interest to ensure as many as possible were kept as intact as possible within individual districts.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola said this year’s redistricting process was intensive, but also open, transparent and collaborative.
“We took input from the public to heart and seriously considered every recommendation,” Sokola said.” We also engaged our colleagues from across the aisle at every turn. The result is a set of fair maps that the League of Women Voters in its own public testimony acknowledge score highly in third-party evaluations. I call on my colleagues to support these maps next week.”
During a public hearing in the House of Representatives, Claire Snyder-Hall, director of open-government group Common Cause of Delaware, thanked the Democratic leadership for holding one public hearing so that community members could testify for two minutes each but said the people of Delaware deserve more opportunities to have meaningful input into the process.
She said even as a paid staff member with an advocacy group, she’s scrambled to get a clear understanding of the impacts the new district maps will have on communities.
“I can only imagine how challenging it would be for everyday voters to get any sense of what the new lines mean,” Snyder-Hall said.
Republican senators indicated during the public hearings that if key changes were made, they would support the final redistricting bill. It is not clear if these changes will address all of their concerns.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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