The public will have a chance to weigh in on new legislative districts during a virtual public meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, on Zoom.
“We’re charged with drawing districts that are roughly equal in population, that follow natural boundaries or major roads whenever possible, that keep communities together, and that adhere to the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “It’s a technical process that is not as simple as drawing 41 equally sized districts in the House and 21 districts in the Senate. We are committed to a process that involves the public and solicits their input. We welcome public input into the process, whether their comments are specific or general.”
Information and the registration link are available on the legislative redistricting website, legis.delaware.gov/redistricting.
Lawmakers will give an overview of the redistricting process and explain how districts are drawn. They also will solicit public comment from residents regarding districts and communities throughout the state, officials said.
The House and Senate will create separate plans for each chamber, officials said. Once the Senate and House have drawn the draft maps, they will post the drafts on the redistricting website for the public to review. Each chamber will hold public hearings, to be announced later this month, 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 each district’s boundaries. The General Assembly will convene a 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 for 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 areas.
Every 10 years, states must redraw their legislative districts based on the most recent federal census data. This process, known as redistricting, requires the General Assembly to follow a very specific, very technical set of guidelines, officials said. There are numerous criteria each district must meet, including containing a relatively similar population size and meeting guidelines concerning contiguity, compactness, maintaining a majority-minority population and following natural boundaries.
In Delaware, every legislative seat will be up for re-election in 2022. It is imperative that district lines are set before Nov. 8, so candidates who run for a seat can live in the district for a year, as required by law.
This year, the redistricting process was delayed by data from the U.S. Census Bureau arriving five months later than in previous redistricting years.
On Sept. 10, legislative leaders also announced the launch of a redistricting website for residents to learn more about redistricting, review data, find out when public hearings will be held, examine draft maps once they are completed and posted, and submit their own plans, suggestions and requests in writing through an online submission form.
“Our primary goal is to make the redistricting process as open and transparent as we can,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark. “Redistricting is always a highly technical process, but further complicated this year by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the late arrival of crucial population data that is affecting states across the country. Both the speaker and I feel very strongly that these challenges should not stand in the way of our efforts to engage the public so we end up with district lines that serve our communities.”