Q. Why is the City of Waterbury changing to a new method of electing Aldermen?
A. The City’s voters authorized the City of Waterbury to do so when they amended the City’s Charter in the November 2014 general election. Waterbury currently elects its Aldermen “at large,” which means that every voter in Waterbury casts a ballot to elect all 15 Aldermen regardless of where they live within the City. At the voters’ direction, the City must now change over to a “by-district” election method. Under this new method, the City will establish five districts, with three Aldermen being elected from each district within Waterbury. A voter will be allowed to vote for aldermen within the voter’s district.
Q. How will this new “by-district” election system work?
A. As a voter within a particular district, you will choose from among candidates who reside in your own district and who seek your vote to serve as your area’s representative on the City’s Board of Aldermen.
Q. When will the new election system go into effect?
A. The new election method is scheduled to commence with the City’s next election on November 3, 2015.
Q. Who will determine which district I will be in?
A. The process of changing over to this new election method will be open to the public. The City has retained an impartial demographer to form these five election districts in accordance with all legal requirements and then refine them in response to input from the public and the District Reapportionment Commission (DRC).
Q. How can I get involved in the reapportionment process?
A. There are several ways to do so. The City and DRC seek your input, both in person and in writing. All members of the public and representatives of interested community groups can participate in any (or all) of four public meetings commencing at 6:30 pm on January 8th, January 14th, January 22nd, and January 28th. Alternatively, you can voice your concerns in writing mailed to: District Reapportionment Commission, c/o Citizen Service Center, 235 Grand St. – First Floor, Waterbury, CT 06702.
To follow what is happening, click on the links to “Commission Meetings”, “What You Are Saying”, “Press”, or “Maps” on this Districting Update website.
Q. What is the “District Reapportionment Commission”?
A. The City’s voters authorized the City of Waterbury to form a “District Reapportionment Commission” (DRC) when they amended the City Charter in the November 2014 general election ballot. Under the Charter amendments, the DRC is charged with recommending to the Board of Aldermen (BOA) the boundaries of the City’s five new three-Aldermen election districts. Once it receives the DRC’s recommendations (on or before January 30, 2015), the BOA will establish the districts after holding at least one public hearing.
Q. How many Commission members are there?
A. The DRC has 8 members from varied ethnic backgrounds and neighborhoods within Waterbury. It includes Democrats, Republicans, and Other.
Q. What was the process of becoming a member of the Commission?
A. Pursuant to the Charter Amendments, the majority and minority leaders of the Board of Aldermen (BOA) solicited names from the public and nominated 8 prospective members. Those 8 were approved by the full BOA.
Q. Will Commission members be paid?
Q. How can I find out more about the Commissioners’ backgrounds?
A. Brief bios of the Commissioners are posted on this website. Click here: [insert hot link to “Commissioner Biographies”]
Q. What is the difference between reapportionment and redistricting?
A. Reapportionment is the permanent process by which the City’s 15 Aldermanic seats will be redistributed among the 5 newly-created three-member Aldermen Districts. Redistricting is the process of adjusting district every ten years following the census, so that each district will encompass one-fifth of the City’s population.
Q. Why should one have confidence that the Commissioners—who are unelected and therefore unaccountable to the voters--can produce district boundaries that are in the voters’ best interests?
A. It was the voters themselves who favored (by a 56% majority) establishing a new election system and creating a District Reapportionment Commission (DRC) to recommend the new districts, which will be approved by the Board of Aldermen after public hearings.
Q. Why should I care about reapportionment?
A. One of the greatest powers that the people have is the right to elect their own representatives to conduct the business of their government. How the district boundaries are configured can make the difference between empowering and maximizing the voters’ voices or minimizing and muting those voices. The independent DRC is committed to drawing fair districts that reflect the best interests of the people, not the incumbent political parties.
Q. What criteria will the Commission consider in recommending the districts to the BOA?
A. The criteria for the Commission to follow are laid out in the Federal Voting Rights Act and other legal mandates. They require that the new districts:
- Are equal in population to the extent practical, to comply with the US Constitution.
- Ensure that minorities have an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice, to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act.
- Are as contiguous as practicable, so that all parts of the district are connected to each other.
- Respect the boundaries of neighborhoods and other communities of Interest, minimizing their division insofar as practical.
- Are as geographically compact as practicable, i.e., have a fairly regular shape.
- Respect the currently existing State Representative Districts wherever practical.
Q. What is the Voting Rights Act and why is it important?
A. The Voting Rights Act protects all racial and language minorities, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. The DRC welcomes input from all members of the public. The DRC will be guided by that input in fulfilling its commitment to comply with the Voting Rights Act requirements and any other requirements.
To learn more about how the Voting Rights Act works, visit the U.S. Department of Justice at: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/redistricting.php.
Q. What is a “community of interest”?
A. A community of interest generally is any contiguous population that shares common social and/or economic interests and should, for that reason, remain intact within a single district insofar as practicable for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process.
Q. Can’t this whole process be done by a computer program?
A: The Commission is relying on the active participation of Waterbury residents to weigh in on how the districts should be drawn. Residents themselves are best able to define what constitutes their local “communities of interest”—whether they are neighborhoods, enclaves, or other contiguous populations with shared interests. This is to be an open conversation intended to assist the District Reapportionment Commission (DRC) in evaluating citizen input and exercising responsible judgment about what districts should look like. A computer could never do that.
Q. What if the Commission cannot agree on the final redistricting maps?
A. Each of the Commissioners is committed to delivering fair district boundaries. To accomplish that goal, the DRC is undertaking a deliberative and open process engaging citizens from everywhere in the City of Waterbury. Through that process, and working with an impartial demographer, the Commissioners will have a clear understanding of how to draw the lines and agree to final maps for recommendation to the Board of Aldermen.