Redistricting conundrum

To the Editor:

It boggles my mind as to how so simple a task like reorganizing the voting district lines in our town has become political cannon fodder. I’m not even a full year into my first term as a Fairfield RTM member in District 7 (i.e. town representative — don’t get me started on how many folks have no idea what RTM stands for), and I can’t believe how certain individuals consistently try and manipulate the system for their own ends.

Fairfield has 10 districts that our town is divided into. Which should mean 10 voting places. Only due to the national Census taken every decade, new district lines need to be redrawn as the population of our towns slightly shifts from one area to another. The state has redrawn its lines according to the new population statistics, and in fact this year your choices of whom to vote for state representative may not be who you think they are. In fact your voting/poling place may not be where it was in past elections for the upcoming primary.

Our Town Charter states that we must redraw our town district lines to be as similar as possible to what the state lines are. This is supposed to keep the polling places you go to vote in a state or federal election the same as your polling place for the local elections. This saves money and time. Folks simply just want to vote at the most convenient place that is closest to their home.

The Town Charter doesn’t tell us how many districts we are allowed to have, only that the population variation between districts isn’t supposed to exceed a certain percentage. It doesn’t tell us how many RTM members we are allowed to have in a district either. These are both arbitrary numbers that the RTM is allowed to change if we need to when redistricting comes up. Having 10 districts in Fairfield has worked fine for roughly 20 years. It allows your town representatives to be able to easily cover their designated areas. It allows us to focus on local school and neighborhood issues like the pending zoning applications we have on Chatham Road and Homeland Street to help our neighbors fight to keep their neighborhoods safe and not become overcrowded. Many similar sized towns have far more representatives and districts to this point.

Having fewer districts or fewer RTM members doesn’t make any sense. If anything, I would think people would want more representation, not less. Having nine or even eight districts means fewer people representing you. How does that benefit anyone but the politicians who want to control their voting majority? (A majority that swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans every few years like clockwork.)

The notion that there are too many representatives “that don’t do the work or show up” is preposterous. Members who have had those issues in both parties this term have resigned and good, smart replacements have been found, such as Amy Jennings and Matt Ambrose.

I hate that issues like redistricting have become political. I didn’t run for the RTM to be involved in politics. I ran because I wanted to help the town and my local neighborhoods. I’ve said this many times before, but I firmly believe there is no need in small or large towns for government run by political parties or politicians. Fairfield’s government should be focused on keeping costs under control, enabling folks to stay and enjoy as high a quality of life as the town is able to provide.

All that needs to be done by the Redistricting Committee is to approve a plan to redraw the district lines so we can have roughly ten polling places instead of dozens. So when you read the rumblings about one party preventing a consensus for a new redistricting plan to come to fruition, it’s not because someone isn’t doing the work. It’s because some folks are seeking political gain instead of listening to the actual people in their districts who merely want to vote in a local polling place close to their home and have adequate representation in their local government. That and lower taxes.

Marc Patten

RTM District 7

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