Lavoie: Wait for census data before changing voting districts

Paul S. Lavoie, the Republican candidate for First Selectman, has issued the following statement regarding the petition for a referendum on 7 council districts:

It is important to balance the requests of citizens while adhering to local and state law governing redistricting. I am aware of the legal analysis and opinion of this petition, as I am not an attorney I will solely address the facts and concerns of the Citizens for 7 Districts.

The petition was circulated to Trumbull residents claiming that the move to four districts has harmed voter turnout. On the contrary, voter turnout is a result of a combination of many factors; the personality of the candidates running for office, the specific issues facing the town, the “Get Out The Vote” effort conducted by campaigns and even the weather on Election Day.

The petition considers none of these factors and presumes that only the four district model is to blame. Over the last five municipal elections, Trumbull’s voter turnout by percentage has been: 40.09% in 2007, 51.19% in 2009, 48.01% in 2011, 40.38% in 2013 and 47.70% in 2015. The elections in 2013 and 2015 were the only municipal elections with the four district model and the percentage turnout in those years are very similar to the turnout in 2007 and 2011 under the seven-district model. In fact, the rise in turnout in 2009 was more of a product of community anger towards the Democratic administration for proposing an 11.6% tax increase in the previous budget year than anything else.

In regards to the concerns of longer wait times to vote in Trumbull compared to other communities, I have yet to see supporting evidence of these facts from the petitioning citizen group. Regardless of evidence, these concerns can be addressed simply by working with the Registrars of Voters to add additional lines and checkers at polling locations as well as determining if new locations would be more conducive to the voting public. If all of the issues claimed by the organizers of the petition can be addressed by working with the Registrars of Voters, why is it necessary to overhaul the voting districts prior to the next U.S. Census in a few short years and why is the only solution seven districts? Simply put, more council districts equals more guaranteed council seats for the minority party. This is not a Republican talking point. Michael Redgate, who is currently running as an unaffiliated petitioning candidate for First Selectman, recently stated in a July 6, 2017 Trumbull Times article that, ‘There is no data that supports the number of districts is responsible for low voter turnout.’ Redgate further stated that, ‘If the Democrats had a super-majority there would be no petition.’

Redistricting normally occurs following the completion of a U.S. Census. The Town was in violation of one person one vote as redistricting had not occurred for nearly 30 years resulting in unequal representation from an influx of 3,000 new residents. The four district model which was approved in 2012 conformed with one person one vote, reduced split State Assembly districts which in turn reduced election costs and provided more choice in candidates and less guaranteed party controlled seats.”

My philosophy has always been that if we think there may be a problem, then let’s investigate it and get the solid information necessary to find a reasonable common sense solution. That’s why I believe the best approach is to wait for the next census data to arrive and work with our Registrars of Voters in the interim to address the current concerns. I would like to set up a meeting between the Registrars of Voters and the Leaders of the Citizens for 7 districts together to work on a solution to these issues. It makes common sense to solve our problems by working together, not by lawsuits or other means.

Finally, the Connecticut General Assembly will redistrict Connecticut House and Senate districts following the completion of the 2020 U.S. Census. Any changes will affect local voting districts and will require the formation of another Redistricting Committee here in Trumbull to analyze if we need to make changes. A bipartisan panel of citizens reviewing the most up-to-date information is the best way to address this issue. The town should not limit itself to one solution or another and be open and flexible when approaching redistricting in the future.