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Albemarle to hold virtual public information session about redistricting

Albemarle County will begin redrawing its magisterial districts and voter precincts to match 2020 U.S. Census figures, including considering a request to add another district and member to the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The county will hold its first virtual public information session about the redistricting process on Monday at 6 p.m. County Registrar Jake Washburne said the meeting will review preliminary redistricting guidelines, but no maps will be presented.

The Board of Elections, the county attorney and county GIS staff have been working on new maps with proposed updated magisterial districts and voter precincts, Washburne said. Those should be ready for the Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks.

In a letter to the board, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors has asked supervisors to consider adding a seventh member and to draw at least one map reflecting seven single-member districts.

“CAAR requests Albemarle County Board of Supervisors fully engage with the public regarding the county’s considerations involved in the redistricting process,” the letter from Pam Dent, CAAR president, states.

Dent said CAAR wants the board to include a minimum of one map “that includes adding a seventh member, for public comment in late January.”

The CAAR request echoes long-held support for more districts by the League of Women Voters of the Charlottesville Area. The league has supported increasing the number of districts to an odd number, either seven or nine.

Board Chair Donna Price said she is not in favor of adding a seventh member to the board, either by an added district or an at-large board member.

“In order for something to be approved, requiring the majority means you have to have four [votes] to approve something,” Price said. “I really have come to appreciate that because it tends to build consensus more than a simple majority.”

The county is running late on redistricting this year due to delayed 2020 Census results. Localities are required to redraw their magisterial districts every 10 years, which would normally have happened in 2021.

Albemarle saw a population increase of about 13.6%, from 98,970 in 2010 to 112,395 in 2020. If the county were to keep its six magisterial districts, each district would have a population of about 18,700 people.

A state law enacted in 2020 requires each precinct to be wholly contained within a single congressional district, state Senate district, House of Delegates district, and local governing body or school board district.

County staff said in a report they could not “definitively avoid [split precincts]” until the new state and federal districts are finalized.

Even then there could be a problem. Albemarle remains almost entirely in the 5th Congressional District, but a new 7th District made up of Rockingham and Greene counties includes a small sliver of Albemarle County

The small sliver has about 110 residents. It also has its own humor-based Twitter account.

“Why do I exist,” the sliver asked in a pinned tweet from Dec. 28, 2021.

“My Blue Ridge slopes are beautiful, but they also mean I get more snow,” the sliver tweeted prior to a Jan. 16 snowstorm. “This weekend I will be one snowy small sliver. Stay safe Albemarle.”

Washburne said due to that 7th District sliver, there will have to have one split precinct, for which it must apply to the state Board of Elections for a waiver.

“It is just not possible [to accommodate the sliver in a separate precinct], because we’re prohibited from creating a precinct with about 60 registered voters,” he said.

Late last year, the Supreme Court of Virginia approved new state maps, after the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to draw them within the 45 days allotted by the state constitution. In the Virginia Senate, all of Albemarle is part of a new 11th District, which also includes Charlottesville, all of Nelson and Amherst counties and part of Louisa County.

Albemarle is split between the 54th and 55th districts for the Virginia House of Delegates and three precincts need to be adjusted to avoid a split precinct in the new House districts.

Washburne said the Census data delay actually helped the county avoid the problem of developing its map at the same time the state created the legislative maps, usually without coordination.

“We were working away here with our new lines, and the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he said. “So when it was all done, we wound up — all across the state, not just in Albemarle — with a lot of split precincts, and that is a real pain to administer.”

The Board of Supervisors may adjust the redistricting schedule to get it completed in time for a possible June primary.

“If there is a June primary, [the current schedule] would give us real problems, because we have to start early voting on May 6 and if people didn’t know who they were voting for, that would be a problem,” Washburne said.

Community members can join the meeting at albemarle-org.zoom.us/j/82650796375.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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