Parts of Central Virginia have shifted congressional districts following a Tuesday Supreme Court of Virginia approval of new maps.
The once-a-decade redraw was taken over by the state Supreme Court after the Virginia Redistricting Commission, mired by partisan politics, failed to come up with maps on time.
Two special masters — Sean Trende and Bernard Grofman — were nominated by each political party to draw the maps. The process also included public comment both in writing and through hearings before the court.
“We drew maps which did not unduly favor either party. These maps came about as part of a partisan and incumbency blind process based on good government map making,” Trende and Grofman wrote in a 63-page memo outlining some of the many changes made between the draft and final versions of the maps.
The new map skews slightly more Democratic than the last map, according to the experts who drew the congressional map for the Virginia Supreme Court, with the Democrats likely having a 6-5 majority in the congressional delegation in a normal year.
The 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Bob Good, shifted slightly south and east and will now include the counties of Fluvanna, Louisa and Goochland as well as a portion of Henrico County.
Albemarle County and Charlottesville are largely unaffected by the redraw and will remain in the 5th District, a change from a recent map draft which split the county between the 5th and 10th Districts. However, an extremely small portion northwest Albemarle County bordering the counties of Rockingham and Greene is part of the new 7th District.
The counties of Green and Madison have now shifted from the 5th District to the 7th District, which itself has seen dramatic upheaval.
The 5th district formally sprawled nearly the entire length of the state and was often criticized for its alleged gerrymandered structure and was described by former 5th District Rep. Denver Riggleman as “a dragon riding a unicycle.” According to The Washington Post, the district continues to lean Republican.
Good has yet to comment on the new map, which keeps the most populous areas from the former district within the border, including his home in Campbell County.
The 7th District, which is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, no longer contains her base of support in western Henrico and western Chesterfield counties, which have been folded into a new 1st district, represented by Republican Rob Wittman.
The map also differs from a draft map that Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine expressed concern about last week, claiming the map placed the redistricting burden on three female Democratic congressional representatives, including Spanberger. Though slightly extended north, the SCOVA approved 7th District map does not move the district into northern Virginia like the draft version proposed.
Even with the newly drawn district, Spanberger announced Wednesday that she would still seek re-election in the now-northern 7th District.
“Nearly 200,000 Virginians in the new 7th District have already been my constituents under the current district lines, and I look forward to continuing my service representing them as well as my future constituents,” Spanberger said in a news release. “I will continue to work hard on behalf of their families, their businesses, their farms, and our local economies in the years to come. Much like the current 7th District, the new 7th District includes a diverse mix of Virginia’s suburban, rural, and military communities.”
Spanberger had been eyeing a run in the new Northern Virginia district since the Virginia Supreme Court issued draft redistricting maps that blew up her current district and left her with no obvious seat in which to run for re-election, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Times-Dispatch reported last week that Spanberger had started privately calling lawmakers to express interest in seeking out the Northern Virginia seat. At that point the proposed 7th included a larger portion of Prince William County and profiled as a safer Democratic seat.
Members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent, but voters tend to overwhelmingly prefer it, per the Times-Dispatch. Spanberger currently lives in Henrico County, which falls outside the 7th District, and has yet to say whether she plans to move to a home in the new district.