By Sara Kidd
Senior Environmental Planner
Redistricting is the process of redrawing legislative districts on a map so that the elected officials in each district are representing roughly the same number of people. The number of people in each district can change dramatically over the course of 10 years so this issue is revisited with every release of new Census counts. The Census 2010 data is now being used in the redistricting process to prepare for national, state, and local elections in 2011 and 2012. The population counts are used not only to apportion congressional, state, and local election districts, but also to determine how many electoral votes a state receives and determine how funding for government programs is distributed.
The Census 2010 redistricting data was released for Virginia on February 4, 2011. Since Virginia is one of only four states that will be electing its state legislature in November 2011, the timeline for completing its redistricting plan is very tight. The Virginia General Assembly is in charge of defining the congressional, state Senate, and House of Delegates districts. The General Assembly will reconvene on April 6, 2011 to approve the draft redistricting plan. The plan must then be “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice as a requirement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before it can be finally passed by the General Assembly.
Most counties in Virginia will have their Board of Supervisors and School Board elections in November 2011 so local redistricting plans must be completed just as swiftly as the General Assembly’s plan. Virginia’s cities must also create redistricting plans in 2011 but they have a little more time as their elections will be in May or November 2012. The new Congressional districts will go into effect beginning with the 113th Congress in 2013.
More information on redistricting in Virginia can be found at the Division of Legislative Services web site: http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/