Virginia Redistricting Law Clarification, Question 2 (2004)
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Text of measure
The language that appeared on the ballot:
The proposed amendment clarifies provisions concerning the effective date and implementation of decennial redistricting laws.
The proposed amendment continues the requirement that the General Assembly must reapportion General Assembly and congressional districts every ten years in the year after a new federal census. This reapportionment or redistricting is done by redrawing the district boundaries so that the populations in the districts are kept as equal as "practicable." Redistricting is done to adjust district populations based on information from the new Census.
The General Assembly redrew state Senate, House of Delegates, and congressional district lines in 2001 after the 2000 Census and will be required to redraw lines in 2011 after the 2010 Census and every ten years afterwards.
The proposed amendment restates the practice under the present Constitution and makes it clear that the redrawn districts will not be used until the November general election held immediately before the end of the terms being served in the year of the redistricting. There were November elections from new districts in 2001 for the House of Delegates, 2002 for the United States House of Representatives, and 2003 for the state Senate as those terms ended in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively.
The proposed amendment therefore states that the members in office when a decennial redistricting law is enacted shall complete their terms of office and continue to represent the districts from which they were elected for the duration of those terms of office.
The question that led to this proposed amendment is which district to use when a vacancy occurs before those terms end. After the 2001 redistricting, there were several vacancies in state Senate seats, and they were filled from new districts. This solution created some confusion because both old and new districts were represented in the Senate at the same time. Some people who had voted in the old district of the member who died or resigned were not voters in the new district and so did not have a representative in the state Senate for whom they had voted. Other people living in the new district had voted in elections for two members of the state Senate -- one from the their old district who still served and one elected to fill the vacancy from the new district.
The proposed amendment instead requires that the vacancy must be filled from the district as it existed when the member who has died or resigned was elected. It does so in the new language that specifies that any vacancy occurring during the terms being served in a redistricting year (2011, 2021, etc.) will be filled from the preexisting district, that is, the same district that elected the member whose vacancy is being filled.