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Redistricting in Delaware: Lawmakers have redrawn their seats. Why it matters and what to know


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Delaware lawmakers have officially redrawn their own legislative maps for the next decade.

Lawmakers, who are in charge of the redistricting process that happens once every 10 years, approved the maps on Monday. The maps decide which lawmakers represent a certain area, and which communities get lumped together in their district.

Population changes caused some districts to be redrawn, especially in Sussex County which took one district from Northern Delaware due to a booming community of retirees.

Here's what to know about the redrawn maps:

Why are the maps being redrawn?

Delaware law requires residents to be represented by 41 House lawmakers and 21 Senate members representing individual portions of the state.

Every 10 years, lawmakers' districts are redrawn to accommodate for population changes according to U.S. census data.

This year's redrawing process was delayed by five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic slowing census counts.

TRANSPARENCY CONCERNS: Delaware is redrawing its legislative district maps this fall. Here's what to know

How does it work?

Lawmakers wanted to finish the redistricting process one year before the November 2022 general election. State law requires that a candidate lives in their district for at least a year to run for office there.

State lawmakers are responsible for redrawing legislative districts in Delaware. Because the state has only one congressional district, the redistricting process is focused on state lawmakers' districts.

The districts have to be cohesive, nearly equal in population (about 24,000 people per House district and about 47,000 people per Senate district) and bounded by major roads or natural barriers like streams. They also can't be drawn to unduly help a person or party, according to the law.

This is the first time that Delaware will count prisoners in the district of their last address before being imprisoned rather than in the prison's district.

Lawmakers held three public meetings this fall that included public input on how the maps should be redrawn.

The General Assembly received more than 30 draft maps from advocates, according to a press release.

What changes for House districts?

Due to population increases in Sussex County, House lawmakers drew a "new" district in and around Long Neck near Rehoboth Beach.

In order to allow this, one district was subtracted from New Castle County.

Lawmakers chose to subtract Rep. Gerald Brady's district.

The Democrat plans to step down at the end of his term next year in response to public backlash for his use of an anti-Asian slur in an email over the summer.

Lawmakers expected to have to add a district in Sussex County because of increased retirement populations in Southern Delaware.

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Because that New Castle County district will disappear, the Greenville-area Barley Mill community will be entirely in the 12th House District represented by Democratic Rep. Krista Griffith. Before, it was split between the 12th and 4th Districts.

The entirety of the Collins Park community near New Castle will now be in the 16th District represented by Democratic Rep. Franklin Cooke, instead of being included in the 17th District represented by Democratic Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown.

More: Emails show Brady said he didn't know what to do about anti-Asian remarks

What changes for Senate districts?

Slaughter Beach will now be included with Milford in Senate District 18, which is represented by Republican Sen. David Wilson.

Wilmington’s Midtown Brandywine community will be moved to Democratic Sen. Sarah McBride's Senate District 1 from Democratic Sen. Tizzy Lockman's Senate District 3. The Flats neighborhood will stay in Senate District 3.

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Kent and Sussex County Senate Districts were changed to ensure some of the faster-growing districts such as the Lewes, Ocean View, Marydel, Smyrna and Delaware City areas are closer to the ideal 47,000-person figure.

Why aren't Republicans happy about the Senate map?

Lawmakers approved the changed maps through Senate Bill 199 on Monday afternoon.

Senators voted, 14-7, to approve their maps, with only Republicans voted against it. They argued that the maps don't properly account for population growth in GOP-dominated Sussex County.

"Our constituents in Sussex County are way underrepresented when you look at these numbers," said Sen. Gerald Hocker, a Republican from Ocean View.

In a statement, the Democratic Caucus responded that Republican senators only released their own proposals for redistricting four days before the vote, 14 days after Democrats released their first draft.

The House approved the maps 40-1, with only Rep. Michael Smith, a Republican from Pike Creek, voting no.

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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.