For three straight U.S. Census cycles, Stratford Republicans have used gerrymandering to redraw political boundaries and help their party in town elections.
The result: Democrats almost always carry the town in elections for president, governor, U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House. But when it comes to the Town Council with its rigged district lines, the GOP has had a majority on the Town Council for 22 of the past 24 years.
As the GOP-led Town Council finishes its redistricting work based on the 2020 census, 2023 is proving to be no exception. It’s just more of the same for Stratford voters.
Twenty years ago, the GOP used Stratford’s redistricting changes based on the 2000 census to split the Oronoque Village seniors housing complex in half, pitting North Trail vs. South Trail, to the benefit of Republicans. The Oronoque action attracted national attention when The New York Times described the gerrymandering as “silly,” “a sham,” and “absurd.”
Ten years ago, based on the 2010 census, the gerrymandering continued. Stratford’s Districts 2 and 3 were switched, concentrating voters of color in two districts and unfairly helping Republicans in multi-district land use elections.
For this year’s redistricting, based on the 2020 census, only a Republican plan was allowed for consideration. The Redistricting Commission’s final report sent to the Council was not even the same as what was voted on at the final meeting. Some 50 pages of additional material that was never approved by the commission – or even presented or considered — was improperly presented to the Council as part of the Redistricting Commission report.
The Republican plan also did not follow the town charter which specifies that changes can only be made – quote— “when necessary.”
Instead, the GOP plan goes out of its way to punish Democratic Council member Kaitlyn Shake by moving her out of the Second District where she won two terms and into District 7 that is represented by a Republican incumbent.
There has been a lot of publicity across the country about gerrymandering to help one party at the expense of the other. These stories undercut public confidence in the electoral system.
At the Town Council’s Ordinance Committee hearing on Monday May 22, we will again ask the Council to return the plan to the Redistricting Commission, so that both parties have a chance to submit their separate proposals and a proper vote can take place.
The final outcome may not be any different, but at least the public could be more confident that the process was followed. And it would be less likely that Stratford would get the unwanted title as The Gerrymandering Capital of Connecticut.
–James Simon is the elected Democratic Registrar of Voters in Stratford