Albemarle adopts expedited redistricting process

Albemarle County is seeking input on how the lines for the county’s magisterial districts should be redrawn following the U.S. Census.  Jake Washburne is Albemarle’s registar. 

“The state completed the redistricting of the state and Congressional districts on [December 28],” Washburne said. 

Washburne, the Electoral Board, and the county’s GIS office have produced three potential maps and a public comment period is underway through March 4 with a questionnaire on the county’s website.

Supervisors adopted an expedited schedule on February 2.

“The sooner we could get the process going and complete, the better, because we may have a June primary election and if we do we’ll have to start voting early for that on May 6,” Washburne said. 

Voters will need to know by then where they will be voting! The Board will have a public hearing on March 2 with an adoption slated for March 23, 2022 until to meet the deadline to have the new maps established in time. 

The next time a House of Delegates race is run, Albemarle will only have two districts in its boundaries, as opposed to having four districts currently. There’s a federal lawsuit at the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals seeking to force an election this year and oral arguments will be heard on March 8. 

One quirk in Virginia’s new Congressional maps is that not all of Albemarle is within the 5th District. 

“Ninety-nine percent of Albemarle County is in the 5th U.S. Congressional District but for some reason they decided a tiny sliver up in the northwest part of the county which has a total of about 110 residents and probably between 50 and 60 voters is in the 7th Congressional District,” Washburne said. 

Washburne said there is likely no way to remedy that situation and the county will need a waiver to allow for a magisterial district to be in two Congressional precincts. 

The 7th Congressional District includes about a hundred residents of Albemarle

All three of the maps continue the practice of Albemarle having six magisterial districts. Here’s County Attorney Greg Kamptner. 

“Albemarle County operates under the county executive form of government and it is authorized to have a board between three and nine supervisors,” Kamptner said. “Increasing the size of the Board was previously raised by the League of Women Voters in 1991, and by a Supervisor who was the former president of the League of Women Voters in 2001. In neither 1991, 2001, or 2011 did the Board express a desire to increase its membership.” 

Kamptner said if the Board wanted to increase its membership they could add a seventh magisterial district or an at-large supervisors who would also be the chair. Voters would have to approve the latter change in a referendum, but the Supervisors could proceed with a seventh during redistricting. Staff recommended against that at this time due to the need to complete the process in time for the election. 

“State law allows the number of districts to be changed at any time, not only as part of the redistricting process,” Kamptner said. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he is aware that many political groups are interested in the idea, but he has not heard a groundswell of support.

“But from a constituent standpoint, this is not been one that has been raised a lot in my conversations with folks,” Gallaway said. 

Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley did not appear to have much interest in a seventh seat because she agreed community members in Albemarle did not seem to be interested in the topic. 

“Frankly that’s come from mainly from developers because the rationale was its easier to get four votes out of seven than four votes out of six,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek, first elected in 2007, said she supports the continuation of six elected officials. 

“Over the years I have found the 3 to 3 to be a good thing especially when I was in a minority position because if a project was good enough to get a fourth vote, even when there was a split board, that was a good threshold to have,” Mallek said. 

To have your say, visit Albemarle County’s redistricting page.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 10, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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