HARTFORD — Community leaders, think tanks, academic organizations and a state commission are joining forces and sharing resources to make sure the general public and racial and ethnic minorities participate in the state’s redistricting process, the New Haven Register reports.
The legislature’s Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission hosted a summit this week at the Legislative Office Building to help raise awareness about the process and explain what state and federal laws require.
“Federal law requires districts to have about equal populations so that everyone’s vote has equal importance. State law requires that Congressional and legislative district lines be redrawn every 10 years. The districts must be based on the federal Census and consistent with federal constitutional standards,” said LPRAC Commissioner Richard Cruz.
Redistricting is aligned with the decennial Census and population shift is one factor considered when determining new district boundaries. In Connecticut, the General Assembly bears responsibility for redrawing district lines.
Current Reapportionment Committee members are Co-chairmen Sen. Donald Williams and Rep. Lawrence Cafero; Sens. John McKinney, Martin Looney and Leonard Fasano; and Reps. Christopher Donovan, Sandy Nafis and Arthur O’Neill.
The committee’s goal is for each of the state’s Congressional districts to be one-fifth of the state population or 714,819. Connecticut’s population grew by 4.9 percent to 3.5 million from 2000 to 2010.
The Hispanic population here surged by just under 50 percent to 479,087 over the decade.
Juan Cartagena, president and legal counsel of Latino Justice, said variables above and below the average population are permissible in legislative districts. “But you must be within 10 percent of the highest and lowest districts in your plan,” he said.
The bipartisan Reapportionment Committee has until Sept. 15 to finish its work and the new district lines would be in effect for the November 2012 election.
Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy and a panelist at the summit, questioned why there are no Latino legislators on the committee. “Maybe somebody should make a stink about that,” he said.
Falcon also stressed grassroots participation. “Get regular folks in the process, so it’s open, transparent and our communities have access to the data,” he said.
Orlando Rodriguez, a demographer and author of the recently released book “Vote Thieves: Illegal Immigration, Redistricting and Presidential Elections,” said that among Latino voters nationally and in Connecticut, voter participation is low.
Even though the Hispanic population is growing, not everyone is eligible to vote because of factors such as immigration status and age. “We’re a young population,” he said.
“If Latinos are going to expand their influence, they have to look beyond Latinos,” for both new candidates and voters, Rodriguez said. “And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”