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New RTM districts approved with few changes

Published 2:36 pm, Wednesday, April 3, 2013
  • Town Clerk Patty Strauss discusses voting district changes during Tuesday's Representative Town Meeting session. The RTM approved during that meeting an amended districting ordinance, which will be in effect for the Nov. 5 town election. 
Tuesday, April 2, 2013/ Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott / Westport News
    Town Clerk Patty Strauss discusses voting district changes during Tuesday's Representative Town Meeting session. The RTM approved during that meeting an amended districting ordinance, which will be in effect for the Nov. 5 town election. Tuesday, April 2, 2013/ Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott

 

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Westport voters will head to the polls in the November town election in newly drawn voting districts that closely mirror the existing boundaries, after the Representative Town Meeting unanimously approved an amended redistricting ordinance Tuesday.

The revised ordinance maintains the town's current allotment of nine RTM districts, with four members representing each district. None of the district lines was substantially changed. The new boundaries were mapped by the town's Engineering Department.

"I appreciate the expertise from our Engineering Department in creating the maps that we studied, and the new map that is now approved has the fewest changes in the boundary lines and will displace the fewest number of voters," Town Clerk Patty Strauss told the Westport News Tuesday after the RTM's vote.

Strauss recommended the nine-district plan, while the registrars of voters, Marla Cowden and Bob Lasprogato proposed six districts each represented by six representatives. But the nine-district framework gained much more support from RTM members, including the endorsement of the Rules and Ordinance committees.

"The committee felt that keeping the lines where they were or close to them was much more important," said Dick Lowenstein, District 5, a Rules Committee member. "It kept the districts smaller and let the people running for the RTM run on a more modest budget than they would have in larger districts."

RTM districts must be realigned every 10 years using the U.S. Census Bureau's new population data, after any reapportionments for state Senate, state House and Congressional districts have been completed, according to the Town Charter. The last round of state redistricting was completed in early 2012 and went into effect for the 2012 election.

Westport's population totaled about 26,400 in 2010; it numbered about 25,700 in 2000.

The average population of each RTM district is approximately 2,900. District 7, which borders Fairfield and Post Road East, is the most populous with about 3,100 residents. District 5, which encompasses the southeast section of the town between Post Road East and Long Island Sound, is the least populous with about 2,800. The population deviation between those two districts is approximately 9.7 percent, in accordance with the 10 percent deviation maximum between the largest and smallest districts stipulated by the Town Charter.

Voters in each district will go the same polling station for the Nov. 5 town election that they were assigned for the 2011 town election, with the exception of residents in District 2 and District 9. Voters from District 9 will cast their ballots at Kings Highway Elementary School, while District 2 voters will go to Saugatuck Elementary School.

During the next two months, the registrars of voters will update the voter list to reflect the new voting districts. The new RTM district map must be submitted to the Secretary of the State by June 1.

The new map will be used for the first time in July when RTM incumbents file to run for re-election in their current districts. RTM members who have to moved to another district since the last town election will have to submit a petition with 25 signatures to run in their new districts. Cornelia Olsen, who represents District 1, now lives in District 6, while District 6 representative Christopher Urist now resides in District 5.

New candidates also have to file a petition with 25 signatures from residents of their home district.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott