GOP registrar quits Trumbull redistrict committee

TRUMBULL — The committee looking into changing the town’s voting alignment from four districts to seven has shrunk from five members to four.

Republican Registrar Bill Holden, one of five people the Town Council recently named to a committee to recommend a redistricting plan, has informed Town Council Chairman Mary Beth Thornton that he will not serve.

In an email to Thornton on Feb. 16, Holden wrote, “I, respectfully, decline to serve on the 2020 Trumbull Redistricting Committee.”

Holden, who had spoken out against redistricting at a recent public meeting, cited the upcoming 2020 census as the reason for his refusal.

“I have made this decision because the administration has decided to go ahead with its original redistricting plan now, even though it is aware that the 2020 U.S. Census and the State Legislative reapportionment sometime in 2021 will have an affect on the Town of Trumbull,” he wrote. “Basing a new apportionment on 2010 Census figures probably will not follow the court ordered concept of ‘one person, one vote.’”

He concluded, “Any change in voting district boundaries, at this time, is unwise. Trumbull should wait until after State Reapportionment when a committee will know the location of state legislative boundaries and the results of the 2020 census.”

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, as part of her 2019 re-election campaign, had promised to work toward a return to seven voting districts in town. Trumbull has been divided into four districts since 2012, but with the Town Charter mandating a 21-member Town Council, the four-district plan resulted in District 4 being 20 percent larger than the other three. Town officials and residents had also complained about crowded polling places, long drives to vote and the potential for a 17-4 partisan split on the council.

It is that potential 17-4 “supermajority” that motivated Thornton to prioritize redistricting. A seven-district plan would mean that no party could hold more than 14 seats. This is important because some council actions like increasing the annual budget or approving nominations to some town commissions require a 2/3 vote. Council Democrats currently hold a 16-5 majority.

“My priority is that no one should have a supermajority,” Thornton said.

Council Democrats had initially intended to return to seven districts in time for the 2020 election. But Connecticut is holding its Democratic presidential primary April 28, and primaries and general elections in the same election cycle must by law be held at the same polling places. That means that the redistricting cannot happen before the 2021 municipal election. Delaying the change until after the state reapportions districts based on 2020 census data would then push the redistricting plan back to at least November 2022.

At its February meeting, the council named a redistricting committee that consisted of Holden, Democratic Registrar Tom Kelly, council members Kevin Shively, D-2nd, and Tony Scinto, R-2nd, and Laurel Anderson, a former Democratic registrar and longtime League of Women Voters volunteer who was named chairman.

Thornton said the committee would move on and perform its mission as a quartet.

“It would have been nice to have Bill’s experience, but I understand his position,” Thornton said.

Shively, at the February council meeting, had expressed hope that the committee would work in a bipartisan manner, and confidence that the committee would have plenty of time to do its work before the 2021 election.

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

Anderson said it was unknown what, if any, effect state reapportioning would have on Trumbull’s voting districts. In any case, the town would likely have to modify its districts slightly no matter what happened.

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