Democrats oppose GOP’s call to replace redistricting expert

December 27, 2021 GMT

Democratic members of the bipartisan redistricting commission submitted a legal brief on Monday opposing Republican efforts to have the Connecticut state Supreme Court reconsider its choice for a special master charged with redrawing the state’s congressional district boundaries.

The court-appointed expert became necessary after the redistricting panel could not reach agreement on how to redraw the congressional districts and ultimately missed its deadline.

The top four Democrats in the General Assembly said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, is “eminently qualified” to serve in the role. They called him ”one of the nation’s “preeminent scholars on election law, election administration, voting rights, and redistricting” and that the court’s confidence he’ll be impartial is “well-founded,” despite concerns raised by the GOP.

Hours after the court last week announced Persily as the special master, the four Republican commission members issued a brief calling for him to be replaced with two special masters — one recommended by the Republicans and one by the Democrats — in order “to preserve the public’s confidence in the fairness of the redistricting process.”

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The court has not yet responded to the GOP’s motion for reconsideration.

The Republicans noted that Persily’s name was not on the list of three possible special masters they had submitted for the court to consider. However, he was mentioned publicly by Democratic Senate President Martin Looney as someone the Democrats would recommend to the court. Ultimately, the Democrats did not submit any names. The Democrats, however, said the mention of Persily in a news article is not the same as formally submitting his name for consideration.

Democrats also pushed back on GOP claims that Persily would be “partial to abiding by his prior work” as Connecticut’s special master back in 2011, the last time lawmakers couldn’t reach agreement on a new congressional district boundaries. They noted that both parties proposed Persily that year to serve as a neutral special master.

“That’s exactly what he did. He neutrally and meticulously followed this Court’s directives in producing the redistricting plan the Court adopted,” the Democrats wrote. “There is no reason to believe he will do anything other than neutrally and meticulously follow the Court’s directives now.”

The Democrats also disagreed with the GOP’s proposal to have two special masters, arguing it would risk making the process more difficult and protracted. The deadline for completing the redistricting process is Feb. 15. Lawmakers have already agreed on new district boundaries for state House and Senate seats.