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Stories about Connecticut

Connecticut Supreme Court appoints special master to assist in congressional redistricting

The Connecticut Supreme Court appointed Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, as a special master to assist it in the congressional redistricting process on Dec. 23, 2021. On Dec. 28, the court rejected a request from the Republican members of the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission asking the court to select a different special master or appoint two special masters representing Democrats and Republicans. 

The court, in its rejection of the request, said: “We do not welcome unsolicited partisan filings and will not permit this Court to merely become an extension of the breakdown of the process the people of the state have commanded.”

Congressional mapmaking authority transferred to the court after the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission did not meet its initial Nov. 30 deadline to complete redistricting. The court granted the commission an extension to Dec. 21, which it also did not meet. The Connecticut Supreme Court’s deadline to draw a congressional map is Feb. 15, 2022.

Connecticut has completed its legislative redistricting, having enacted a state House map on Nov. 18 and a state Senate map on Nov. 23. The commission, made up of four Democratic lawmakers, four Republican lawmakers, and a ninth member selected by the commissioners, took over the redistricting process after the previous Reapportionment Committee failed to meet its Sept. 15 deadline to select maps and win two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly.

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Congressional redistricting passes to Connecticut Supreme court after commission misses extended deadline

On Dec. 21, the Connecticut Supreme Court assumed control over the state’s congressional redistricting process after the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission announced it did not complete congressional maps before its noon deadline. The court has until Feb. 15, 2022, to approve new maps for the state’s five congressional districts.

This is the second time the commission—made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers—missed its congressional redistricting deadline during the 2020 redistricting cycle.

The first deadline was Nov. 30, at which point the commission was required to have completed state legislative and congressional redistricting. The commission enacted state House and Senate maps on Nov. 18 and Nov. 23, respectively. After missing the Nov. 30 deadline for congressional redistricting, the supreme court assumed authority. The commission then petitioned for an extension to Dec. 21 which the court granted on Dec. 9.

Earlier, the commission publicly acknowledged that it would not meet the Nov. 30 deadline to finish congressional redistricting, citing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This time, commissioners cited national political pressures for the delay but said their differences remained relatively minor and technical. House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said, “The emotional nature of this, the intensity … I believe it has made it really hard for us to do our jobs here and it’s not for lack of effort.”

The state supreme court will likely appoint a special master. The commission was initially tasked with naming potential appointees to that position but did not agree on three names. Democratic commissioners have indicated they would support Nathaniel Persily, a law professor who served as a special master in 2011. Republican commissioners said they would like two special masters, one from each party. The supreme court, whose seven members were appointed by Democratic governors, will ultimately decide.

The Connecticut General Assembly is responsible for redistricting every cycle but has not produced new maps since 1981. In 1991, 2001, 2011, and 2021, the legislature missed its mid-September deadline to enact maps, passing authority to the commission in each cycle. The commission itself has missed its Nov. 30 deadline three decades in a row: 2001, 2011, and 2021. In all three cycles, the supreme court granted a Dec. 21 extension. The commission adopted maps before the extended deadline in 2001 but missed the extension in 2011 and 2021.

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Special election to be held in Connecticut House district

A special election is being held on Dec. 14 for District 116 of the Connecticut House of Representatives. Trenee McGee (D), Richard DePalma (R), and Portia Bias (I) are running in the general election. The winner of the special election will serve until Jan. 2023.

The seat became vacant on Oct. 18 when Michael DiMassa (D) resigned from the state House after he was arrested for one count of wire fraud. DiMassa had represented the district since 2017.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 96-54 majority in the Connecticut House with one vacancy. Connecticut has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of December, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Connecticut held 40 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Connecticut completes state legislative redistricting

Connecticut completed its state legislative redistricting process on Nov. 23, 2021, when the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission voted 8-0 in favor of new maps for the state’s 36 Senate districts. The commission enacted new House maps on Nov. 18. These maps will take effect for Connecticut’s 2022 state legislative elections.

The commission, made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, took over the redistricting process after the previous Reapportionment Committee did not meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Census data was not delivered to the state until Sept. 16. Unlike the committee, the commission’s maps did not need to win two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, meaning the commission enacted its maps outright.

The CT Mirror‘s Mark Pazniokas described the commission’s Nov. 23 meeting, writing, “Passage of the Senate map came without debate in an 11-minute meeting conducted via Zoom, a reflection that the maps in Connecticut are resolved by negotiation.” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R) said, “It’s truly a bipartisan effort.” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D) said, “We have a much better approach than most the country does on this.”

As of Nov. 29, 2021, 22 states have adopted legislative district maps and 28 states have not. At that point in 2011, 29 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, states have completed legislative redistricting for 771 of the 1,972 state Senate seats (39.1%) and 2,032 of the 5,411 state House seats (37.6%).

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Redistricting committee updates in Connecticut and Virginia

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting committee updates from Connecticut and Virginia:

In Connecticut, the ​Reapportionment Commission selected John McKinney (R) as a ninth and potentially tie-breaking member. McKinney is a former state Senator who served as minority leader for seven years. The previous tie-breaking member, Kevin Johnson (D), resigned from the position. Though the commission is composed of eight members, it selects a ninth member who only votes in the event of a tie.

So far, the commission has enacted a state Senate map, and has a deadline of Nov. 30 to draw maps the state House and U.S. House. If the commission does not complete maps by that deadline, the maps will be subject to review by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

In Virginia​, the Redistricting Commission did not complete legislative maps by the Oct. 24 deadline, and did not complete congressional maps by the Nov. 8 deadline, which meant that authority to redraw maps passed to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Court requested the commissioners submit nominees for special masters to assist the Court in drawing the maps. On Nov. 1, Republicans and Democrats submitted three nominees each. The Court rejected all three Republican nominees and one Democratic nominee for special master on Nov. 12 and requested that legislators submit new nominations. On Nov. 19, after commissioners submitted new nominees, the Court unanimously approved two of them: Sean Trende, who was the Republican special master nominee, and Bernard Grofman, who was the Democratic nominee.

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Connecticut Reapportionment Commission enacts new state House district maps

On Nov. 18, the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission voted 8-0 in favor of new maps for the state’s 151 House districts. The commission, made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, took over the redistricting process after the previous Reapportionment Committee did not meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Census data was not delivered to the state until Sept. 16. Unlike the committee, the commission’s maps do not need to win two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, meaning the commission enacts its maps outright.

The commission announced that it will release its Senate district maps before the Nov. 30 deadline, but will likely not have its congressional map complete by the end of the month, which will bring the state supreme court into the process.

Initial analyses indicated that no incumbent legislators seeking re-election were drawn out of their current districts in the House map. Commissioner and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R) said, “I think overall, we made a lot of difficult decisions trying to keep a lot of the core districts in tact, but recognizing the fact that with population changes so do come changes to various districts.”

The Connecticut House is the second-largest legislative chamber to have completed its redistricting process following the 2020 census, behind only Massachusetts’ 160-seat House.

Nationwide, 21 states have adopted legislative district maps for at least one chamber, and legislative redistricting has been completed for 687 of 1,972 state Senate seats (34.8%) and 1,931 of 5,411 state House seats (35.7%).

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Democrats and Republicans deciding on candidates for Connecticut House 116 vacancy

A special election has been called for the Connecticut House of Representatives District 116 for Dec. 14. Prospective candidates will be nominated by their respective parties. 

Michael DiMassa (D) resigned from the state House on Oct. 25 following his arrest on Oct. 18. DiMassa first assumed office in 2016 after defeating incumbent Louis Esposito in the Democratic primary and Richard DePalma (R) in the general election. 

The Dec. 14 election will mark the fifth state legislative special election in Connecticut this year. Connecticut held 40 state legislative special elections between 2010 and 2020, which was the seventh-most in the country. 

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Michael DiMassa resigns from Connecticut state House

Connecticut state Rep. Michael DiMassa (D-116) resigned on Oct. 25 after he was indicted on charges of wire fraud.

DiMassa submitted a letter of resignation dated Oct. 21 that the secretary of state received on Oct. 25. DiMassa was arrested on Oct. 18 after he allegedly created a fraudulent company that received more than $600,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.

DiMassa was first elected to represent the 116th district in 2017, after defeating Richard DePalma (R) 73.39% to 26.61%.

Vacancies in the Connecticut state legislature are filled by special elections. The governor must call for an election no later than 10 days after the vacancy happens, and all special elections must be held no later than 46 days after a governor’s declaration. If the vacancy happens with less than 125 days left before the general election, the special election must be held on the same day as the general election. No election can be called by the governor if the vacancy happens with less than 49 days before the general election.

As of October 2021, there have been 116 state legislative vacancies in 41 states. Five of those vacancies have occurred in Connecticut.

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Sarah Merriam confirmed to U.S. district court

The U.S. Senate on Oct. 6 confirmed one of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to a lifetime Article III judgeship:

  1. Sarah A.L. Merriam, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, by a vote of 54-46

Merriam was nominated to the District of Connecticut on June 15 to replace JudgeJanet Hall, who assumedsenior status on Jan. 21. Merriam was rated Well Qualified by theAmerican Bar Association. To read more about ABA ratings,click here.

To date, 16 of Biden’s appointees have been confirmed. For historical comparison since 1981, the following list shows the date by which the past six presidents had 16 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

  1. President Donald Trump (R) – Nov. 28, 2017
  2. President Barack Obama (D) – Feb. 9, 2010
  3. President George W. Bush (R) – Nov. 6, 2001
  4. President Bill Clinton (D) – Nov. 20, 1993
  5. President George H.W. Bush (R) – Jan. 23, 1990
  6. President Ronald Reagan (R) – Oct. 21, 1981

As of this writing, 11 Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, five nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 19 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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