Sussex County, Delaware may have just passed its redistricting plan, but not all members of the Sussex County community were pleased with the proposed districts. On October 25, 2011, Jo Klinge, member of the League of Women Voters of Sussex County Redistricting Committee and editor of the LWVSC Voter newsletter, testified at the Sussex County Council hearing that the League still had very strong concerns with Sussex County’s proposed redistricting plan. She agreed to speak with me about these concerns.
Q. What community of interest does the League of Women Voters of Sussex County represent?
A. The League does not represent a community of interest as we define the term. Many of our members live in the Cape Region, but we were not speaking for that community.
Q. What are the goals of the League’s community of interest?
A. Our goal in seeking to influence the redistricting process was to break the pattern of partisan redistricting which exists in Sussex County. Ten years ago the Democrats were in power; this time it is the Republicans. Each seeks to protect its own turf and potential voters.
Q. The League’s website states “The League has long supported independent commissions for redistricting at all levels of government.” Why does the League support these independent commissions?
A. We have researched some of the different types of independent commissions around the country, and such commissions often result in less partisan decisions. The two other counties in the state, New Castle and Kent, do have independent commissions. There seems little reason for Sussex not to be in sync with the other counties.
Q. What concerns you about the proposed Sussex County Redistricting Plan?
A. The county plan continues to divide some communities of interest (although it has corrected some split municipalities.) It leaves one district stretching from the coast to the Maryland line, while splitting communities of interest along the coast. The culture and concerns of eastern and western Delaware are quite different in many areas. The goals by which the County drew their plans were not announced until the maps were drawn and presented. Requests concerning the hiring of a consultant to work with the County Attorney and an intern were never answered: Was an RFP issued? What was the cost to the County related to the redistricting efforts?
Q. How does the League’s Redistricting Plan differ from the Sussex County Redistricting Plan?
A. Our plan met all the federal/state requirements (as does the County’s) and keeps all current Council members in separate districts. It does, however, acknowledge the Cape Region and the Quiet Resorts as distinct communities of interest. In doing so, it makes more changes to the current maps than does the County plan.
Q. What changes do you hope Sussex County will make in response to your testimony at the County Council hearing on October 25, 2011?
A. We have little hope that any changes will be made. We felt our work was of merit in that the Council provided more opportunity for community input than ever before. We were able to focus more attention on the process than would otherwise have happened.
To learn more about the League’s concerns, please read Ms. Klinge’s comments from the redistricting hearing.
Colleen Nichols is a second-year student at William & Mary law.