Reapportionment Committee to miss deadline, add 9th member

The legislature’s Reapportionment Committee acknowledged Friday it will be unable to devise new legislative maps by its deadline of Sept. 15, requiring the eight-member, bipartisan panel to now find a ninth neutral member to join them.

The four Democratic and four Republican legislators on the committee are not deadlocked over new districts; they still are working on drawing 151 state House, 36 state Senate and five congressional districts to reflect population changes.

“We’re making progress, but we’re just not ready,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, a committee member.

But Connecticut’s rules for redistricting require that if unable to meet the deadline of Sept. 15, the committee of eight legislators must pick a ninth member and reform itself as a Reapportionment Commission, with a new deadline of Nov. 30.

Previously reapportionment efforts failed to finish on time in 2001 and 1991. In each of those decades, the committees chose the same man as the neutral member, former House Speaker Nelson Brown, who died this week at 89.

Senate. President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, D-Brooklyn, the co-chairman of the committee, said the panel members have yet to begin exchanging names of a new neutral member.

“Now, and in coming weeks, the rubber meets the road,” Williams said.

The committee is now evenly divided: four Democrats and four Republicans, with two of each from the House and Senate.

By tradition, the panel functions as two committees, as the House members draw the House map and the Senate members draw the Senate map. When finished, they work together on the congressional map.

Unlike a decade ago, when Connecticut lost one of its five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, drawing new congressional districts is not expected to be difficult, though moving lines can mean political life or death.

In the crowded race for the open seat in the 5th Congressional District, for example, five candidates live in communities on the border of two or even three districts: Cheshire, Farmington, Meriden, Plainville and Simsbury.

One of them is Donovan. One of his rivals, Elizabeth Esty, lives in Cheshire.

According to the 2010 census, each congressional district should have a population of 714,819 this year, up from 681,113 a decade ago. The 5th has 714,296.

With 729,771 people, only the 2nd District of eastern Connecticut needs to shrink, but changes in the 2nd will ripple across the state. Population for the other districts: 1st, 710,951; 3rd, 712,339; and 4th, 706,740.