Redistricting in Virginia

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Redistricting in Virginia
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General information
Partisan control:
Legislative Authority
Second quarter of 2011 for State legislative districts, third quarter of 2011 for Congressional seats
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
Redistricting in Virginia is handled by the General Assembly. Virginia is one of over 30 states that lets its lawmakers draw the lines. If a plan is not agreed upon by the Legislature, a federal or state court may draw the lines.


The Virginia General Assembly introduces the redistricting plan as a bill. The Elections Committee can then make revisions to the introduced plan. The Governor has the authority to veto any redistricting plan.


Census results

Virginia remained at 9 congressional districts for the 2010 Census despite adding more than a million citizens to the population in the last year[1]. The idea congressional district size going into the new census is 730,703 constituents[2].

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered local population data to the Commonwealth of Virginia on February 3, 2011. [3] The five most populous cities in Virginia were Virginia Beach at 437,994, Norfolk at 242,803, Chesapeake at 222,209, Richmond at 204,214, and Newport News at 180,719. Since the 2000 Census, Virginia Beach grew by 3 percent, Norfolk grew by 3.6 percent, Chesapeake grew by 11.6 percent, Richmond grew by 3.2 percent, and Newport News grew by 0.3 percent. [3]

McDonnell forms bi-partisan commission

Governor Bob McDonnell announced on January 9, 2011, that an independent commission would oversee the process of redrawing Virginia's congressional and legislative boundaries. [4]. The Governor issued an Executive Order creating the commission along with naming the 11 members that would oversee the process. The commission consists of judges, government officials, and former officeholders. Supporters of the bipartisan commission hope that the new panel will put pressure on the General Assembly to put aside political motivations when considering any redistricting plan. [4].

After the 2010 Census results were compiled, the General Assembly's Joint Reapportionment Committee chose to share the process on the Internet and allow Virginia voters to leave comments. Virginians will get to comment on how their district lines are drawn through a Web site that allows them to check out the new district maps and voice any concerns.

"We’ll certainly consider any input anyone provides us," said Del. Mark Cole, R- Fredericksburg.

The Joint Reapportionment Committee met in Richmond to rough out the details of setting up a system to handle 2011 redistricting, when local, state and congressional district lines will be redrawn to reflect the results of the 2010 Census.[5]

The changes will likely be seen in the northern Virginia area and the southwest part of Virginia. They will likely have the first chance to comment on redistricting as a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor begins its work.

The Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting is tasked with proposing new district lines for state House, Senate and congressional seats.

The independent commission held its first meeting in late January 2011 and hopes to present its recommended district maps to the General Assembly by April 1, 2011. Lawmakers are expected to reconvene in a special session to tackle redistricting beginning April 6.[6]

Cuccinelli prepared for legal stalemate

With Virginia needing pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to enact its redistricting plan, this could keep Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli busy. The Attorney General has told the Virginia media that his office is dedicating most of its time in 2011 to handle any legal fallout that comes from redistricting. Despite lawmakers and the Governor may reach an agreement on a plan, the Commonwealth's top law enforcement official is prepared to handle any lawsuits. Cuccinelli said that: "there is no other state in the country that is covered by the Voting Rights Act that has elections in 2011. We're the only one, we're everyone else's test case." [7] Cuccinelli has been on the record saying that he favors the Commonwealth to no longer go through the pre-clearance process. [8]

New General Assembly districts added

Figure 1: This map shows the Virginia Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

In the General Assembly, new State Senate and State House districts will be drawn in Northern Virginia. As Virginia experienced large population growth in the Northeastern counties, comes the need for new districts. It is undetermined where the new districts will be added, but this will affect how the other Senate and House districts will be drawn. [9] When the new lines are drawn up, the idea size for a Senate district is 200,000 while House districts would be 88,900. [2]

Voter Rights group slams the process

After Governor McDonnell formed a bi-partisan commission to oversee the redistricting process, this has not stopped special interest groups from demanding reforms. [10] The Virginia Chapter of the League of Women Voters is pressuring lawmakers to move the responsibility of redistricting from legislators to a non-partisan commission. The voter advocacy group has slammed the use of gerrymandering across the nation where the Legislatures draws the lines. Olga Hernandez, President of the Virginia League of Women Voters, said during a forum: "we just think there should be a fairer way of representing people and the interests of the community." [11]

2011 primary date may change

The Virginia House of Delegates approved legislation on January 19, 2011, to change the state's primary election date from June 14 to August 23, 2011, in anticipation of redistricting[12]. The bill is pending a floor vote in the State Senate[13]. The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections favorably reported the legislation by an unanimous 15-0 vote on January 25, 2011[14].


Localities in the Fredricksburg region will be seeing improvements in technology compared to the last redistricting in 2001. New software, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), along with Census data will make redrawing voting districts a less tedious exercise. Stafford County has held demonstrations showing how district boundaries can be quickly redrawn with a computer. In 1991, it could take hours or days to calculate the ramifications of just one boundary change[15].

Congressional redistricting

One possible congressional redistricting scenario was mentioned by The Rose Report. [16] The report mentioned that the GOP could redraw the 5th Congressional district to their benefit by not including Albemarle County. [16] Albemarle County is the home of former Congressman Tom Perriello. [16] The report said that it could be harder for Perriello to run again if his home county is no longer included in the 5th Congressional district. [16] [17]

Virginia receives Census data

The Commonwealth of Virginia is expected to receive its neighborhood population data from the U.S. Census Bureau on February 3, 2011.[18] Receiving the data will be the first step in beginning a once-in-decade process of redrawing Virginia's legislative and congressional districts.[18]

The General Assembly will use the data during a special session on redistricting in April of 2011.[18] The session is expected to be politically charged when a split-controlled Legislature battles over incumbency and drawing new maps that reflect shifting population from Southern to Northern Virginia in the past decade.[19] [18]

Constitutional explanation

The Virginia Constitution provides authority to the General Assembly for redistricting in Section 5 of Article VII.


The redistricting timeline for Virginia as follows. Some deadlines are approximate as Virginia is one of a few states that must have pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before any plan is enacted, which is enforced under the Voting Rights Act:

Virginia 2010 Redistricting Timeline
Date Action
December 21, 2010 State informed of number of Congressional Seats on the 2010 Census.
March 1, 2011 Expected date to receive complete Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
April 1, 2011[20] Final deadline to receive Census data.
April-June 2011[4]. General Assembly meets to have Legislative redistricting plan in place.
June 14, 2011[21] Statewide and Local Primary Election.
July-October 2011[4] General Assembly meets to have Congressional redistricting plan in place.
November 8, 2011 [21]. General election.
June 12, 2012 First primary elections in newly created districts.
November 6, 2012 First general election in newly created legislative and congressional boundaries.

Virginia redistricting news

See also

External links


  1. Virginian Pilot "Va., N.C. populations grow, but no political power gained", December 22, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fairfax Times "Virginia's population has grown by almost 1 million since 2000" 21 Dec. 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 US Census Bureau "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Virginia's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting" 3 Feb. 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Richmond Times-Dispatch "McDonnell names redistricting panel" 11 Jan. 2011
  5. "Redistricting plans, comments go to the Web," Virginia Statehouse News, December 22, 2010
  6. "Bipartisan commission could take show to NOVA first," Virginia Statehouse News, January 31, 2011
  7. NBC 29 "Cuccinelli Preps For Redistricting Response" 7 Jan. 2011
  8. Washington Examiner "Cuccinelli favors less redistricting oversight from DOJ" 7 Dec. 2010
  9. Mount Vernon Patch "Shedding Light on Virginia's Redistricting Process" 4 Jan. 2011
  10. Virginia Business "Carving up Virginia’s map" 1 Jan. 2011
  11. ARL Now "League of Women Voters Fights for Redistricting Reform" 12 Jan. 2011
  12. Ballot Access News "Virginia House Passes Bill Moving 2011 Primary from June to August", 20 Jan. 2011
  13. Virginia General Assembly "Status of HB 1507 (2011)"
  14. Virginia General Assembly "HB 1507 Primary schedule in 2011; moves primary date to August 23, 2011 in anticipation of redistricting" 25 Jan. 2011
  15. "Technology will ease once-tedious redistricting task" 23 Jan. 2011
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 News Advance "Fifth, Sixth districts face redistricting efforts" 29 Jan. 2011
  17. The Rose Report "Virginia Redistricting: Strengthening Republican Districts in the Southwest" 27 Jan. 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Washington Post "Delivery of census data means Va. redistricting battle is near" 31 Jan. 2011
  19. Washington Examiner "Redistricting battle looms for Virginia" 1 Feb. 2011
  20. Population Reference Bureau "2010 Census Deadlines
  21. 21.0 21.1 Virginia State Board of Elections "5 Year Election Calendar