Former auditor tapped to serve as 9th member on reapportionment panel

A bipartisan panel of eight state legislators unanimously selected recently retired state Auditor Kevin P. Johnston, a Pomfret Democrat and former legislator, to serve as the ninth member of the Reapportionment Commission.

Johnston, received bipartisan accolades for his fairness and intelligence, must now work with both parties to try to reach consensus on how to redraw Connecticut’s state legislative and congressional district maps.

“He was always a thoughtful, responsible legislator,” Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said of Johnston, recalling when they both served in the House of Representatives during the early 1980s.

Johnston served a decade in the House, followed by another 10 years in the Senate, after which he began an 18-year stint as one of Connecticut’s two state auditors. Johnston and Republican auditor Robert G. Jaekle retired simultaneously from their respective posts this past January.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Johnston “certainly was known for his fairness.”

The legislature’s Reapportionment Committee, comprised of four legislative leaders from each major party, acknowledged on Sept. 9 it would not make its Sept. 15 deadline.

By law, the committee then expands into the Reapportionment Commission, and must choose a ninth member to assist them in resolving all disagreements.

The new panel must try to draw 151 state House, 36 state Senate and five congressional districts to reflect population changes outlined in the 2010 U.S. Census for Connecticut.

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 in September at 89.

If the nine-member commission cannot complete its work by Nov. 30, it then becomes the task of the state Supreme Court to draft Connecticut’s political maps.

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.