Delaware Public Media

Independent redistricting commission passes state Senate

Apr 5, 2017

After years of failed attempts, state senators signed off on a bill that would leave redrawing Delaware’s legislative lines in the hands of an independent commission.

Two thirds of the commission would be made up of normal Delawareans, with the other third retired judges or attorneys.

The heads of the judiciary pick each commissioner, with lawmakers from both parties given one veto over any member.

Right now, leaders in the General Assembly can create whatever process they choose to redraw district boundaries every 10 years following the national census.

Sponsoring Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) says this new process will be far more fair and transparent.

“Time and time again now we’re seeing districts badly drawn, we’re seeing voters want to be able to participate in that fundamental democratic process,” said Townsend.

“We see abuse of power that’s happening and before it happens in Delaware, we should want to be a national leader on the way the system should work.”

State senators narrowly voted 12-7 Wednesday on such a bill – mostly over Republican opposition.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) says lawmakers should have the final say in redistricting.

That’s despite watching Democrats combine the House district he previously represented with a fellow Republican’s in 2011.

“I was able to hold [House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach)] accountable for those decisions to say, ‘You drew these lines that resulted in the district that I used to represent to go away and I object to it,’” Lavelle said.

Past attempts to create such a commission were stifled by Democratic leaders in the Senate.

The measure now needs approval in the House.