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Breaking up is hard to do

Barkhamsted Selectman Don Stein had the right idea last month when he sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to use more common sense this year when they redraw Connecticut’s legislative districts.

Stein points out obvious nuisances that came out of redistricting in 2000, which left his small town divided into two districts — the 62nd and the 63rd — with one side of town lumped in with towns to the east and the other with towns to the west. He speculates that the reason for this move may have been to connect 62nd District town New Hartford with the next town in the district, Granby.

Anyone who looks at the 62nd District on a map sees the resulting “hook” created by the small tract of Barkhamsted that is used to link New Hartford to Granby and East Granby. Everyone in Barkhamsted who lives east of the Farmington River is considered part of the hook, while residents to the west join Hartland, Colebrook, Winchester, Norfolk, Canaan and North Canaan to form the 63rd.

Everyone knows the redistricting process is tainted by politicians who use it for political gain, drawing up boundaries they think will win them the most votes. This is already a sickening example of the self-serving nature of political partisanship today. But when the process becomes so convoluted that it starts breaking up small towns, residents have the right to be angry.

In Barkhamsted, breaking up is hard to do. A town of less than 3,700 residents ends up with two polling stations every time there’s a state or national election. Some residents become confused as to where they need to vote, while taxpayers foot the bill for extra poll workers and machines.

Barkhamsted isn’t the only town that has been divided by redistricting, but it’s certainly one of the smallest, and it is paying an unfair price to adhere to the whims of politicians. State leaders should pay attention to this problem and do what they can to correct it when the 2010 redistricting process begins.

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