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Politics & Government

State legislative districts could change dramatically due to population shifts

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Roman Battaglia
/
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers faced a crowd that seemed to approve the state’s redistricting process this year.

 

To ensure candidates running for office next year know which district they reside in, state lawmakers are trying to have the latest legislative districts drawn, debated and approved by November 8th.

 

House and Senate leadership met with over 350 Delawareans at a virtual hearing Tuesday night to go over what to expect, and hear constituent concerns about their own communities.

 

House and Senate leaders expressed frustration at how rushed they are to get the maps completed and approved by the beginning of November, due in part to how late states received their Census data.

 

Senate President Pro Temp Dave Sokola says the population snapshot, taken in April of last year, was also influenced by the pandemic.

 

“According to the Census Bureau, last year there were 2,000 vacant units in the city of Newark,” Sokola said. “Last year we had a pandemic, a lot of students went home, we had a lot of out of state students who would have counted if they were there during the census counting.”

 

Sokola adds there’s nothing the state can do to change those numbers,  meaning districts in and around Newark may change significantly.

 

Ralph Begleiter, retired UD professor and Ocean View resident, echoed a common thread among beachside residents.

 

“Coastal Delaware has changed dramatically over the past decade,” said Begleiter. “Coastal Delaware has become a mini region of its own. It’s time this region is distinctly recognized in the legislature.”

 

Begleiter and others say the political and cultural differences between the coastal cities and the rest of Sussex County require they reside in separate districts.

 

And that may not be an impossible feat for lawmakers.  Most House and Senate districts currently covering Delaware’s resort towns have grown dramatically, and need to shrink to conform to state law.

 

Lawmakers are beginning to draw the preliminary maps which will be released for the public to view and critique in October.

 

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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