With a compromise on reconfiguring Fairfield's voting districts looking more and more unlikely, the Representative Town Meeting's Redistricting Committee will consider presenting the full legislative body with two new maps to choose from.
The redistricting panel is evenly split between Republicans, who hold a majority on the RTM, and Democrats. The GOP would like to see the number of RTM districts reduced to at least nine from the current 10, while the Democrats say there is no compelling reason to change anything but the district boundaries themselves to reflect changes in the town's population based on recent census data.
Republicans originally wanted to reduce the membership of the legislative body to eight districts with four representatives each, but the GOP has since recommended nine districts with five members. "I believe our side compromised," committee Chairman Hank Ference said Wednesday. "Where is the compromise for your side?"
"It's a huge change, and one, as far as we're concerned, isn't justified," Kevin Hoffkins, D-7, said of the GOP plan. He said the compromise would come in drawing where the voting districts' new boundaries would fall.
David Becker, R-1, the RTM's majority leader, said there has been talk that in the past, more than one redistricting map has been brought to the full RTM for a vote. After a brief caucus, Joseph Palmer, R-4, made a request that the committee get more information on whether two redistricting plans have been brought to the RTM before, and if that could be done now under the existing charter.
The committee did learn that it is not under as much of a time crunch as originally thought, although actually adopting a new plan prior to the November election will most likely require a special meeting of the RTM.
The panel had received conflicting information from state election officials regarding when a new plan had to be in place in order to be used for the Nov. 6 general election. However, committee members learned this week that because Fairfield does not use different polling places depending on the type of election -- for example, whether it is a state election or a referendum -- statutes requiring changes be in place at least 31 days prior the election do not apply.
"This has been the answer I think everyone wants," Becker said, "that we have more time."
And since the RTM waived the normal ordinance requirements that the new redistricting plan come before two RTM sessions prior to vote, as well as be reviewed by all RTM committees first, it can go right to the full legislative body at one time, he said.
Committee members Wednesday appeared to be in general agreement that in order to be fair to candidates and voters, any changes in the voting districts should be in place by mid-October.
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