Albemarle will hold a virtual public information session on redistricting | local government

Albemarle County will begin redesigning its magisterial districts and electoral districts to match 2020 U.S. Census numbers, including considering a request to add another district and a member to the County Board of Supervisors.

The county will hold its first virtual public information session on the redistricting process Monday at 6 p.m. County Registrar Jake Washburne said the meeting will consider preliminary redistricting guidelines, but no maps will be presented.

The board of elections, county attorney and county GIS staff have been working on new maps with proposed and updated magisterial districts and electoral districts, Washburne said. These should be ready for the Supervisory Board in the coming weeks.

In a letter to the board, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors asked supervisors to consider adding a seventh member and draw at least one map reflecting seven single-member districts.

“CAAR calls on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to fully engage with the public regarding the county considerations involved in the redistricting process,” said the letter from CAAR Chair Pam Dent.

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Dent said CAAR wants the board to include at least one card “that includes the addition of a seventh member, for public comment in late January.”

CAAR’s request echoes the Charlottesville-area League of Women Voters’ longstanding support for more districts. The league supported increasing the number of districts to an odd number, either seven or nine.

Council Chair Donna Price said she does not support the addition of a seventh council member, either by an additional district or council member at large.

“For something to be approved, requiring a majority means you have to have four [votes] endorse something,” Price said. “I’ve really come to appreciate that because it tends to build consensus more than just a majority.”

The county is behind redistricting this year due to delayed 2020 census results. Localities are required to redraw their magisterial boroughs every 10 years, which would normally have happened in 2021.

Albemarle experienced a population increase of approximately 13.6%, from 98,970 in 2010 to 112,395 in 2020. If the county were to retain its six magisterial districts, each district would have a population of approximately 18,700 people.

A state law enacted in 2020 requires that each precinct be entirely contained within a single congressional district, state senate district, house of delegates district, and local governing body or school board district.

County staff said in a report that they could not “definitely avoid [split precincts]” until the new state and federal districts are finalized.

Even then, there could be a problem. Albemarle remains almost entirely within the 5th Congressional District, but a new 7th District consisting of Rockingham and Greene counties includes a small portion of Albemarle County.

The small ribbon has about 110 inhabitants. He also has his own comedy-based Twitter account.

“Why do I exist,” the ribbon asked in a pinned tweet from Dec. 28, 2021.

“My Blue Ridge trails are beautiful, but they also mean I have more snow,” the ribbon tweeted ahead of the Jan. 16 snowstorm. “This weekend I will be a little snowy shard. Stay safe Albemarle.

Washburne said that because of this 7th District ribbon, there will have to be a divided precinct, for which he will have to seek a waiver from the state Board of Elections.

“It’s just not possible [to accommodate the sliver in a separate precinct], because we are prohibited from creating a constituency with around 60 registered voters,” he said.

Late last year, the Virginia Supreme Court approved new state maps, after the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to draw them within the 45 days allotted by the state constitution. In the Virginia Senate, all of Albemarle is part of a new 11th district, which also includes Charlottesville, all of Nelson and Amherst counties, and part of Louisa County.

Albemarle is split between the 54th and 55th districts for the Virginia House of Delegates and three precincts must be adjusted to avoid a split precinct in the new House districts.

Washburne said the delayed census data actually helped the county avoid the problem of developing its map at the same time the state was creating the legislative maps, usually uncoordinated.

“We were working here with our new lines, and the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he said. “So when it was all done, we found ourselves — statewide, not just Albemarle — with a lot of split precincts, and that’s a real pain to administer.”

The oversight board can adjust the redistricting schedule so that it is completed in time for a possible June primary.

“If there is a primary in June, [the current schedule] would give us real problems because we have to start early voting on May 6 and if people didn’t know who they were voting for, that would be a problem,” Washburne said.

Community members can join the meeting at albemarle-org.zoom.us/j/82650796375.