New legislative district map in the works

Schwartzkopf: Rolling out public review soon
August 20, 2021

Work on Delaware’s legislative map is expected to begin soon based on census data released Aug. 13.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, will be in charge of redrawing the legislative maps, just as he did after the 2010 census.

"The data from the federal government is being inputted into a computer program so we can see exactly where the population growth and loss has been over the past decade,” he said. “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.”

During a Lewes Chamber of Commerce meeting in April, Schwartzkopf said Sussex County could get one or two more seats, and New Castle County may lose one or two based on population shifts, acknowledging the process will be difficult and a lot of people will be upset. 

He said for now, it's too early to speculate.

"You can look at anecdotal evidence about population growth in southern Delaware and below the canal, but we need to see the detailed information,” he said. “Preliminarily, it looks like Sussex County saw a lot of growth along the coast, but I don't know whether that means there will be a new district in this area or a shifting of existing district lines.”

Public hearings and meetings are expected before the Legislature approves new districts. The General Assembly must pass a new district map before Nov. 8 so anyone planning to run for election in 2022 can abide by the requirement that they have lived for at least a year in the district for which they are running. All legislative seats – House of Representatives and Senate – are up for election in 2022, which happens after every 10-year census.

“I led the effort in the House for the last redistricting in 2011, so I'm familiar with the challenges we face to meet all the guidelines. It's not as simple as just drawing 41 House districts,” Schwartzkopf said. “Unfortunately, this process is taking place much later than it previously has due to complications with the 2020 census. But we're committed to a process that involves the public and solicits their input, as well as that of other legislators of both parties. We will be rolling out ways for the public to review the data and offer their suggestions for districts very soon.” 

Schwartzkopf said public input will be welcome. Comments can be specific or general, he said, such as requests to keep certain neighborhoods together or place adjoining communities in the same district. 

Census information released for Sussex County shows that its population is older, has a higher poverty rate, and has more people moving here from out of state than the average for the state of Delaware.

The most recent data from the 2020 census compares Sussex County to Delaware’s two other counties, and also compares Delaware to the rest of the country. The median age in Sussex County is 50, compared to 41 in Delaware and 38 in the U.S. The poverty rate is 12 percent, similar to the national rate, but lower than the state’s 11 percent.

In Sussex County, 4.3 percent of the population had moved here from another state over the past year, compared to 3.9 percent in the state and 2 percent nationally.

Along racial lines, about 75 percent of Sussex County is considered white and not Hispanic compared to 61 percent in the state, and 60 percent nationally. The Hispanic population in Sussex County is 9.3 percent, compared to 9.6 percent in Delaware and 18 percent nationally, and the Black population is 12 percent in Sussex, 22 percent in Delaware and about 13 percent nationally.

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