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More Votes for Northern Virginia?
October 21, 2010
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Yes, it's getting to be that wonderful time of year again, and with all the 2011 pre-legislative session jockeying already well under way in Virginia, one of the 600 pound gorillas in the room this year is how the statutorily mandated redistricting process will play out.  With control over the house and senate split, and no state legislative elections until after the 2011 session, neither party will have control over the process (as was the case after the last two censuses).  With the volume of proposed legislation the Virginia Legislature handles every session, and the difficulties split control over the Senate and House of Delegates pose on proposed legislation even under normal circumstances, it is going to be even more complicated this year when redistricting gets tossed into the bartering process.  Already, people are questioning whether Richmond can get the job done before the November 2011 elections.  Not only are state legislative district lines on the table, but so are federal congressional districts.

With major population shifts/surges in many Northern Virginia localities, which is anticipated to be shown by the final 2010 census results due at the end of the year, everyone expects voting density to shift from parts of Southern and Western Virginia to Northern Virginia.  According to the Commonwealth, the fastest growing localities since 2000 are all located in either Northern Virginia or are eastern suburbs of Richmond.  Whether these translate into Republican or Democratic votes remains to be seen based upon how the district lines are actually drawn; however, the regional shift of votes is quite evident. 

Legally speaking, redistricting is a legislative act, so the proposed redistricting plans must be introduced by a member of the legislature, will be considered by committee, must be passed by both the Senate and the House of Delegates and signed by the Governor (who can also either veto or return it for amendment).  Both the  House Committee on Privileges and Elections and Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections are already in the process of holding a series of public hearings to get input on how the districts should be redrawn and how the process will work (which can be viewed here at the Virginia Division of Legislative Services (DLS) redistricting homepage).

If you want further detailed information, an excellent resource was prepared by Mary Spain, Senior Attorney for the Division of Legislative Services, entitled "Drawing the Line 2011."  Another great resource is the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia.