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Newark redraws councilmanic districts following university-driven population shifts

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

The City of Newark wants residents’ input as it redraws its council districts.

Like other municipalities throughout the state, Newark is redrawing its districts because of shifts in population counts between the 2010 and 2020 census. 

The closure of university dorms on the northern and western sides of the city reduced population counts in two districts there, says retired City Council member and Reapportionment Committee Chair Stu Markham.  The pandemic likely affectedcounts of off-campus studentsas well. 


Markham notes Council is nonpartisan and says he does not expect the balance of power to shift. 


“Those who are involved in Newark politics are going to continue to be involved, so I really don’t expect a change,” Markham said. “We’re just reallocating based on how the numbers moved within the city.”


The Reapportionment Committee has put out a draft map, which is available on the City’s website. 


Written comments from the public were accepted through Oct. 10. The committee will review these at its next meeting on Oct. 13—and hear additional comments from the public in person. 


“Now I’m expecting some tweaks because we were pretty blind in terms of pulling numbers,” Markham said. “Looking back, I believe District 4 is probably going to have more challenges filling its commission positions, because it’s heavy on the student area, but we will discuss… And we’ll see what public comment is.  ”


Markham says hyper-local input from residents could be helpful. 


“We do want to make sure that people can identify what council district they’re in, so they know who they’re contacting and who we're voting for,” he said. “Splitting things halfway down the road ... I think that makes it very difficult for people to understand who their representation is.”


Once the committee agrees on a map, it will go to City Council for consideration and adoption. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.