Council: Trumbull redistricting won't happen before 2021

TRUMBULL — The proposed return to seven voting districts in town will not happen in time for the 2020 election, Town Council members said Feb. 3. The snag in the plan is a proposed Democratic presidential primary and a state statute requiring primaries to be held at the same polling places as the following general election.

“It’s not possible to make the change this year, so we’re going to still have four,” said Council Chairman Mary Beth Thornton, D-2nd.

Town officials, including First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, had hoped to return the town to seven districts this year in anticipation of heavy turnout for the 2020 Presidential Election.

Long lines at the town’s four polling places and long trips to the polls for voters in some parts of town were among the reasons stated for seeking the change. Proponents of the change also cite the Town Charter requirement for a 21-member council, which would require a 7- or 3- district council to keep the districts even.

Since 2012, the council has operated with five members each in districts 1, 2 and 3 and six members representing District 4, the so-called “superdistrict.”

Another significant change in switching from four districts to seven is increased minority representation. The charter mandates that all representatives from each district may not be from the same party. With seven districts, the maximum party split would be 14-7. Under the current four-district plan, a 17-4 split is possible. Currently Democrats hold a 16-5 majority; Republicans have held a maximum 17-4 majority in the past. This is important because some council actions, like increasing an annual budget and approving nominees to some boards and commissions, requires a 2/3 vote.

Republicans had sought to slow the process, pointing out that the 2020 Census begins in April and that the state may reapportion its own legislative districts once the results were final in late 2021. That would mean that the 2021 municipal elections would also take place using the current four districts.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, the council picked former Democratic Registrar of Voters Laurel Anderson to head the Redistricting Committee. Council members Tony Scinto, R-2nd, and Kevin Shively, D-2nd, were also named to the committee.

Shively said he hoped the committee would do its work in as bipartisan a manner as possible. The committee also, by forming nearly two years before the 2021 election, could take its time, he said.

“We can really go through the issues, and we can get a chance to fully examine these (concerns),” he said.

Anderson said she was honored to be picked as the committee chairman.

“Voting, getting people to the polls, has always been a passion of mine,” she said. “As you get older, you start to realize more and more that this is important.”

The committee’s mission is to recommend a plan to create equal voting districts and to deliver that plan to the council by its May 4 meeting. Anderson said she did not anticipate any trouble meeting that deadline.

“It’s a pretty short timetable, but our charge is very limited,” she said.

The committee, and ultimately the Town Council should it take up redistricting, plans to use the 2010 Census data rather than wait two years for 2020 results. The districts could then be adjusted as needed.

“We may have to do a little tweaking,” Anderson said.

Depending upon how the council redistricts, two Democrats currently on the Town Council would find themselves off the ballot in 2021.