Every 10 years, the state’s legislature redraws district boundaries legislative and state school board districts based on the results of the most recent U.S. Census. This year, the redistricting process has been delayed due to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau arriving five months later than in previous redistricting years, officials noted, and the delay will necessitate a special legislative session later this fall to pass a bill that details the new legislative districts for the next decade.
Ahead of that session, a public hearing is planned on the redistricting process, during which lawmakers will give an overview of the redistricting process, explain how districts are drawn and offer an overview of Delaware’s data trends. They also will solicit public comment from residents regarding various districts and communities throughout the state.
Legislators will then review the comments before making final revisions to the draft maps. Once the new districts are completed, the General Assembly will vote on legislation setting the boundaries for all 62 legislative districts for the next decade.
The public hearing is set to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., virtually, via Zoom. Those wishing to participate can register in advance online at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ikimzg7nTGGQLWUt4BVrPg.
Additional information can be found on the Redistricting FAQ’s page at https://legis.delaware.gov/Redistricting/RedistrictingFAQ.
New Census data will shape maps
The total population of Delaware based on the 2020 Census is 989,940, meaning the standard population number for each of the 21 Senate districts is 47,140, and the standard population for each of the 41 House districts is 24,145.
In an effort to keep communities and neighborhoods intact, some deviation from those numbers is permitted, officials noted. For purposes of legislative redistricting, the state is generally required to have a plan in which the total population of each district does not deviate from the standard population number by more than +/- 5 percent.
States also must comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits redistricting plans from discriminating on the basis of race by diluting the votes of certain minority groups.
In addition, traditional redistricting criteria include:
- Compactness of the district boundaries;
- Contiguity of the districts;
- Preservation of counties and other political subdivisions;
- Preservation of communities of interest; and
- Preservation of any existing majority-minority districts (districts where more than half the population is a minority) and creating new majority-minority districts whenever reasonable.
Special session, public input planned
“Every 10 years, states must redraw their legislative districts based on the most recent federal Census data. This process, known as redistricting, requires us to follow a very specific, very technical set of guidelines,” said Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Sokola (D-8th) and Speaker of the House Peter C. Schwarzkopf (D-14th) in a joint statement on the process.
“But at the heart of this process is the fundamental value that Delaware is a state of neighbors, and the final product must serve the best interests of those who live in Delaware’s cities, neighborhoods and communities.”
“Even with the delay at the federal level, our commitment here in Delaware to a public and transparent process remains steadfast. We will be soliciting and accepting public input throughout this process, including both general suggestions and specific recommendations about the detailed maps drafted along the way,” they said.
Additional information is available on the state’s redistricting website, which allows the public to review the available data, review maps as they are presented, read more about the process and the guidelines officials are required to follow, and participate directly in the process through public comment and hearings.
Residents can submit their plans, suggestions, and requests in writing via the Redistricting Comments form online at https://legis.delaware.gov/Redistricting/RedistrictingComments or via e-mail to HouseRedistricting2020@delaware.gov or SenateRedistricting2020@delaware.gov. Comments can be specific or general, such as requests to keep certain neighborhoods together, place adjoining communities in the same district, etc.
Once the Senate and House have drawn the draft maps, they will post the drafts on the site for the public to review. Each chamber will hold public hearings on their respective proposals. They will take those comments and feedback and make final revisions to the district maps. Legislative leaders will introduce the final maps as legislation. There will be one bill for all 62 legislative districts, detailing the boundaries of each district.
The General Assembly will convene their special session this fall to consider the final redistricting bill. Once it has been approved by the House and Senate, it will go to Gov. John Carney for his signature. The new legislative districts will take effect for the 2022 general election. Candidates in that election must reside in those new districts, and immediately following the Nov. 8, 2022, election, legislators will begin representing constituents within those new district lines.