On June 12, The Stratford Town Council votes on the town’s redistricting plan. The process used to produce the plan was tainted by gerrymandering from the very start. It shows the danger of one party rule, in Stratford and elsewhere.
1. First, the plan was rammed through the Redistricting Commission without the kind of careful discussion and consideration of alternate plans that Stratford residents expect. It is clear Republicans had a majority of seats on the Redistricting Commission and would ultimately prevail. So I remain mystified that a carefully developed Democratic alternative could not have at least been presented and discussed.
2. Second, some 50 pages of necessary material detailing the Republican plan were never presented to the Commission or approved. The Council is voting on a plan that was not approved by the Redistricting Commission.
3. Third, Stratford is the last town in Connecticut to complete its redistricting. We already missed the initial June 1 deadline. And it took an intervention by the Secretary of State’s office to even remind the commission chair that June 13 is the deadline for changes that can affect any party primary election in September. That’s why you have a special Town Council session June 12. They have played “beat the clock” and left no time to return the tainted plan back to the Commission.
This decade-after-decade of Republican maneuvering with Stratford district lines raises questions about the legitimacy of the process.
I have run for Town Council, and I know the hard work that is put forth by every candidate. But when there is cheating in how the lines are drawn, it can raise doubts as to whether a candidate won a district race fair and square, or because the lines were slanted to help them.
Take Councilman Chris Pia, in the First District. Did he win his three terms in District 1 because he was the better candidate? Or is it because that district’s lines were gerrymandered to help him and other Republican candidates?
Let’s take a look. In District 1, the Lordship neighborhood does not have enough voters, so the district lines have to be pushed northward. So imagine you are in Lordship, and then you move the district line up Main St. You would first come to Frash Pond on the left, then Woodend homes, and the South End.
Districts are supposed to be compact and contingent, so are these nearby Democratic-leaning neighborhoods included in District 1?
No. Instead, Republicans drew the district lines to go out Elm Street, to include expensive houses near Shakespeare Theatre, and then out Ferry Blvd and Housatonic Ave. to capture the expensive waterfront houses along the Housatonic River. Finally, a narrow strip of the large, expensive houses along Main Street are included to again improve Republican chances.
So again, did Councilman Pia win election three times because of his hard work and voting record? Or because of the way his district was gerrymandered and rigged so a Republican will almost never lose?
It eats away at the credibility of the Stratford election process if voters think town council districts have been gerrymandered and rigged to help one party control the council for 20 of the past 22 years.
* In Stratford, the gerrymandering capital of Connecticut, it happened in 2003.
* And again in 2013.
* In 2023, Republicans are brazen enough to run roughshod over the process. They redrew the lines so the Democratic leader on the Council suddenly finds herself moved to another district.
The chair of the redistricting commission says it’s just collateral damages, something that just has to be tolerated.
Even though our town charter says changes can be made only when necessary.
I would say to the voters of Stratford: if you are one of the hundreds of voters who have been moved to a new district unnecessarily, as part of this unsavory effort to increase Republican dominance in town, I hope you remember this when you cast your vote in your new polling place in November.
James Simon is the elected Democratic Registrar of Stratford