The state Supreme Court’s special master on redistricting recommended to the court today that it adopt congressional districts that are close to the existing borders, rejecting Republican calls for broader changes.

The maps filed by Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia law professor named as special master after a legislative redistricting commission deadlocked over congressional borders, would keep Democratic New Britain in the 5th District, an open seat expected to spark the closest race in 2012.

5 CD

Persily’s map keeps New Britain in the 5th (brown), maintaining the

Democrats and Republicans had no immediate comment as they read Persily’s recommendations and viewed his five district maps.

The report he filed is a draft subject to revisions from the court.

His recommendations were not unexpected, as the court had directed Persily to make minimal changes as he draws new lines for the state’s five U.S. House districts, echoing arguments made by Democrats.

“In developing the plan,” the court said in its instructions order, “the Special Master shall modify the existing congressional districts only to the extent reasonably required to comply with the following applicable legal requirements…”

Those requirements are that the districts be equal in population, consist of contiguous territory and meet “other applicable provisions of the Voting Rights Act and federal law.”

In the new maps proposed today — one for each of the five U.S. House districts — Persily recommended keeping New Britain in the 5th District, maintaining a city with a strong Democratic voter base in a district that is expected to be the most competitive in 2012.

He did suggest changes from the Democratic plan, which he described as meeting the conditions set by the court.

“Both the Special Master’s Plan and the Democrats’ Plan reunite Durham and split Glastonbury, Middletown, Shelton, Torrington, and Waterbury,” Persily wrote.

“The Democrats’ Plan changes the current district boundary in Waterbury; whereas the Special Master’s Plan changes the current district boundary in Torrington. Assuming no additional towns would be split or moved, one of those changes is necessary to achieve population equality in District 5. It should be noted, however, that the way one town is split in each plan affects how the other towns are split even if they are hundreds of miles away. This is due to the fact that only certain combinations of census blocks will achieve perfect population equality.”

Special master CD map

The draft plan for US House Districts

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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