Lawsuits May Challenege Reapportionment Plan

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(Host) Even though the Legislature gave its approval to a new reapportionment plan this week, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz believes that parts of the plan will be challenged in court. However Markowitz says it’s likely that any changes approved by the courts would implemented after the November election.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) Vermont’s newly adopted reapportionment plan now faces two types of legal challenges. The first is a lawsuit filed by at least five residents of any community in the state who feel that the new plan does not follow the basic legal criteria established by the courts for redistricting. A number of towns that are unhappy with the new state plan are contemplating this action.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz fully expects that several lawsuits will be filed but Markowitz says it’s very unlikely that the courts will rule on these cases until after the November election:

(Markowitz) “In the past – because this has happened every time we’ve had apportionment, we do have some tradition to go back to – in the past what’s happened is, there’s been a court challenge and the court ultimately decides on the challenge but meanwhile the election goes forward. And in the past, what’s happened at least is if they’ve come up with a decision that changes an outcome, actually changes a district, then that change in the past has not come into effect until the next election cycle.”

(Kinzel) There’s a lot of speculation that a lawsuit will be filed to challenge the six-member Chittenden County Senate delegation. It’s by far the largest Senate district in the country in terms of the number of members – no other state has anything larger than a two-member district and 45 states have only single-member Senate districts.

Markowitz is relatively confident that a federal court will uphold the size of the Chittenden Senate district because the Vermont Constitution specifically calls for Senate districts to be based largely on county boundaries:

(Markowitz) “I do believe that the Legislative Apportionment Board and the Legislature looked closely at that and feel reasonably confident that the Chittenden County Senate district does not violate one person-one vote. If there’s a challenge we’ll see what a court says.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says all legislative and statewide candidates affiliated with political parties must file their petitions to run for office by July 15.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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