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Redistricting in Vermont

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Vermont

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General Information
Process:   Legislative authority, advisory commission
Deadline:   None
Total Seats to be Drawn
Congress:   1
State Senate:   30
State House:   150
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This page is about redistricting in Vermont. Between 2000 and 2010, Vermont's population grew by 2.8%, around one third of the national average. Since Vermont has only one Congressional seat, only the state's legislative districts had to be redrawn following the decennial census. Vermont adopted new maps for its 150 representatives and 30 senators in 2012.

Process

The Vermont Legislative Apportionment Board is responsible for drafting the state's legislative maps. However, the Vermont State Legislature must approve any redistricting proposal, and is free to revise the plans as proposed.

Legislative Apportionment Board members are appointed as follows:[1]

  • One selected by the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, serves as Chair/Special Master
  • One selected by the Governor from each of the major* parties (Republican, Democratic, Progressive)
  • One selected by each of the major* party chairs (Republican, Democratic, Progressive)

* "Major" parties have had more than three members in the GA in three of the past five legislative sessions.

Leadership

Reapportionment board

The seven-member Vermont Legislative Apportionment Board was led by special master and chairman Tom Little. The other members were:[2]

  • Meg Brooks
  • Steve Hingtgen
  • Frank Cioffi
  • Gerry Gossens
  • Rob Roper
  • Neale Lunderville

The board had to have a final Senate plan by July 1, 2011 and a final House plan by August 15, 2011. The board did not immediatley set a population deviation target, but Little said it would be carefully considered. He noted, "Simply drawing lines to get the arithmetic idea isn't what the law says. People are better served by someone whose district is coherent, where there is some commonality of interest."[3]

Meetings

Vermont’s House Government Operations Committee hosted a series of public hearings on redistricting in order to gather public input on new maps. In early October 2011, the House committee decided to largely abandon the Legislative Apportionment Board’s plans--designed to create more single-member districts--and work from existing maps. The committee conducted these hearings in November 2011 and December 2011. The legislature considered final plans in January of 2012.[4]

  • A schedule of the Government Operations Committee's meetings can be found here.
  • A schedule of the Legislative Apportionment Board's meetings (now completed) can be found here.

Census Results

Detailed 2010 Census data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on February 10, 2011. It included information on population totals and demographic characteristics[5] The new target population was 4,172 for House districts and 20,858 for Senate districts. Following the 2000 census, the target populations were 4,059 and 20,294, respectively.[3]

This table shows the change in population in the five largest cities and towns in Vermont from 2000-2010.

City/Town 2000 Population[6] 2010 Population Percent Change
Burlington 38,889 42,417 9.1%
Essex 18,626 19,587 5.2%
South Burlington 15,814 17,904 13.2%
Colchester 16,986 17,067 0.5%
Rutland 17,292 16,495 -4.5 %

This table shows the change in population in the five largest counties in Vermont from 2000-2010.

County 2000 Population[7] 2010 Population Percent Change
Chittenden 146,571 156,545 6.8%
Rutland 63,400 61,642 -2.8%
Washington 58,039 59,534 2.6%
Windsor 57,418 56,670 -1.3%
Franklin 45,417 47,746 5.1 %
Figure 1: This map shows the Vermont Congressional District after the 2000 census.

Legislative maps

Board votes for single member districts

On June 9, 2011, Vermont’s Legislative Apportionment Board voted 4-3 to eliminate nearly all of the state’s multi-member districts, selecting a draft plan containing 138 individual House districts and only 5 multi-member districts. The board began discussing the issue with local election officials. Any plan drafted by the board had to be approved by the Vermont State Legislature.[8][9]

  • The single-member draft plan can be found here.

Senate controversy

A mistake was discovered in the Senate map. According to the Vermont Constitution, there can be only 30 Senators. But the new map the Apportionment Board created had 31 members. A last-minute fix was needed to compensate and fix the error. In order to alleviate the problem, the Board removed a seat from Northeast Kingdom, which would make Orleans a single-seat district. At the time, Vincent Illuzzi (R) and Robert Starr (D) represented that district. Under the new map, they would have to run for the same district.[10][11]

  • The final, corrected Senate plan can be found here.

Civil authority boards oppose single-member proposals

At least two local boards of civil authority voted to oppose the Apportionment Board's elimination of multi-member districts within their local area. In Montpelier, district lines were redrawn in order to create two districts without displacing any incumbents. However, because the city's two incumbents lived on the same street, the resulting lines were less than intuitive. Bennington also opposed the plan, arguing that stable local population growth meant that no change was necessary for their district. While these votes were not binding, they were submitted to the legislature for consideration along with the Board's redistricting plan.[12][13]

Board receives local comments

As of August 3, 2011, the Apportionment Board had received feedback from 142 Boards of Civil Authority. The apportionment board used this feedback in its final decision regarding single-member districts. The board had to make its final recommendations by August 15, 2011. All of the letters can be found here.

Board approves final plan recommendations

Despite a preliminary plan that eliminated nearly-all of the state's two-member districts, the Legislative Apportionment Board decided on August 11, 2011 to adopt a more modest revision of Vermont's political boundaries. The decision came after extensive feedback from local governments about the preliminary plan. Several Boards of Civil Authority opposed the plan for their local districts, but others accepted the change to single-member districts.

The final plan reduced the number of two-member districts in the state from 42 to 29. However, the board's plan was advisory, and lawmakers could choose to adopt an even more modest change to the state's legislative districts. The board approved a senate plan earlier in July 2011. The legislature considered the board's recommendations in January of 2012.[14]

  • The final House plan can be found here.

Existing house plan to serve as baseline

The House Government Operations Committee decided to use the state’s existing districts as a baseline as it redrew the state’s house districts. The move marginalized the maps recommended by the Legislative Apportionment Board. However, the legislature did plan on using the board’s maps as reference. Some lawmakers were concerned because the board’s maps drew a number of incumbent lawmakers together in the same district.[15]

Committee begins work

As of January 10, 2012 Vermont's House Government Operations Committee had begun the process of redrawing district boundaries for the chamber. A preliminary map was being revised. The committee hoped to complete its final plans by the end of January.[16]

Hearing held as process continues

As the legislature continued its consideration of redistricting plans, Vermont residents had the opportunity to comment on several Senate plans on February 15, 2012. One of the draft plans that had been most controversial moved Charlotte from the Chittenden County Senate district to the district in Addison County. A final vote on legislative plans would likely occur in April 2012.[17]

House, Senate at odds on map

On April 10, 2012 the Vermont House of Representatives approved a chamber redistricting map by a 126-10 vote. The map proceeded to the Senate where a committee revised the House-drawn plan. The changes increased the deviation from ideal district size, modifying district lines in Bennington County, Charlotte, and Hinesburg. The chair of the Vermont Republican Party threatened to sue if deviations were above 18%--a figure already exceeded before the Senate's modifications. The chair of the House Government Operations Committee (which oversees redistricting for the chamber) said the House would oppose the Senate revisions.[18][19]

Senate approves legislative plan

The Vermont State Senate approved legislative redistricting maps for the House and Senate. However, disagreements still persisted between the two chambers over the maps. The plans headed to a House-Senate conference committee where lawmakers hoped to iron out their differences. Regardless of a legislative compromise, some worried that the high population deviations (18.2% for the Senate, 24% for the House) would prompt a legal challenge against the maps.[20][21]

  • The Senate-approved Senate plan can be found here.
  • The Senate-approved House plan can be found here.

House concurs, final maps approved

On April 30, 2012, the Vermont House of Representatives concurred with the Senate on H. 789 which redrew the state's legislative districts. The Senate had proposed controversial changes to the map originally passed by the House. However, those changes were dropped in favor of more modest adjustments. The new plan added a seat to the Burlington area and paired Dennis Devereux (R) and Eldred French (D) in a single district.[22] Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed the new maps on May 1, 2012.

History

Unlike most other states, Vermont's major conflict regarding redistricting had little to do with partisan politics but rather with adherence to tradition. It was this tradition which led the Vermont House of Representatives to be the third worst reapportioned legislative chamber in the nation by the 1960s. At this time the smallest district had a population of 38 and the largest a population of 35,531. However, both districts were allotted one representative.

Up until 1836, Vermont had a unicameral legislature where each town was given one representative. That year saw the addition of the Senate, which was to have 30 members with districts based on population. Despite constant calls by larger towns for more equal reapportionment of the House, constitutional conventions were based on the one town-one vote system, which allowed small towns to retain the system. Possibilities for reform shrank even further in 1870, when a constitutional amendment stating that amendments could only be proposed every ten years was passed.

Due to these and other factors, there was absolutely no change in House districts for nearly a century, from 1870 until the 1960s. By this time the Vermont House, with its 246 members, was the most imbalanced lower chamber in the country. The Senate had seen a few district shifts related to population changes, but it remained in poor shape as well.

In 1964, the U.S. District Court in Buckley v. Hoff ordered the Vermont Legislature to reapportion by July 1, 1965. This effort was led by a blue ribbon commission appointed by the governor as well as a legislative study commission on reapportionment. The legislature eventually compromised on reducing the House to 150 members and keeping the Senate at 30. House districts were divided into 72 "initial districts." Of these, 31 were single member districts made up of two or more towns, 22 two member districts made up of two or more towns, and 19 made up of larger cities and towns. In 1965 the legislature also created the Legislative Apportionment Board.[23]

2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[24]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts N/A
State House Districts 18.99%
State Senate Districts 14.28%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There was 1 lawsuit related to the Vermont 2000 census redistricting process.[25]

  • In re Reapportionment of Towns of Woodbury and Worcester, 2004 VT 92, 177 Vt. 556, 861 A.2d 1117 (Sep. 13, 2004) : Citizens from the towns of Woodbury and Worcester challenged the Legislature’s 2002 reapportionment of voting districts for the state House, arguing that placement of their towns in the new Lamoille-Washington-1 district violated constitutional requirements of compactness and contiguity. The court noted that petitioners had not come forward with a better plan, and as such, had not met the burden required to successfully challenge a legislative reapportionment plan.

Constitutional explanation

The Legislative Department article of the Vermont Constitution states that the General Assembly "shall afford equality of representation" and "seek to maintain geographical compactness and contiguity and to adhere to boundaries of counties and other existing political subdivisions" for the state house in Section 13 and for the state senate in Section 18.

The redistricting process is detailed in Title 17, Chapter 34 of the Vermont Statutes, entitled Periodic Reapportionment.[26]

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Vermont ballot pertaining to redistricting.

See also

External links

References

  1. Vermont Secretary of State, "The Process," January 26, 2011
  2. Burlington Free Press, "The legislative redistricting process in Vermont begins with an advisory commission," February 15, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Burlington Free Press, "Census may affect legislative districts," February 27, 2011
  4. Burlington Free Press, "Vermont House panel gathers views on redistricting," October 31, 2011
  5. PR Newswire, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Vermont's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," February 10, 2011
  6. U.S. Census Bureau, "American FactFinder - Vermont - Place and County Subdivision
  7. U.S. Census Bureau, "American FactFinder - Vermont - County
  8. True North Reports, "Legislative Apportionment Board votes to eliminate 2-member house districts," June 10, 2011
  9. Daily Journal, "Vt. panel suggests new 150, single-member state lawmaker districts," June 10, 2011
  10. Vermont Digger "Vermont Senate redistricting plan eliminates NEK seat," June 30, 2011
  11. Fox 44 "Vermont Redistricting," June 29, 2011
  12. Green Mountain Daily, "Breaking--Montpelier Board Rejects District Split," July 19, 2011
  13. Bennington Banner, "Legislative district changes opposed," July 18, 2011
  14. VT DIGGER, "Final Apportionment Board plan increases number of single-seat districts," August 12, 2011
  15. Rutland Herald, "New lines based on current districts," October 7, 2011
  16. Burlington Free Press, "Committee in Vermont House faces mapping challenge," January 10, 2012
  17. WCAX, "Vermonters can weigh in on redistricting," February 15, 2012
  18. Burlington Free Press, "Lawsuit threatened over Vermont redistricting," April 10, 2012
  19. Burlington Free Press, "Senate wants changes in House redistricting plan," April 13, 2012
  20. Burlington Free Press, "Vermont Senate endorses redistricting plans," April 20, 2012
  21. VT Digger, "Senate moves ahead with House redistricting plan," April 20, 2012
  22. VT Digger, "Digger Tidbit: Redistricting map finished," April 30, 2012
  23. Policy Archive, "Reapportionment Politics: The History of Redistricting in the 50 States," Rose Institute of State and Local Government, January 1981 (pg.323-330)
  24. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011
  25. Minnesota State Senate "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"
  26. Vermont Statutes Online "Title 17: Elections"