Virginiamanders

Ohio loses a congressional seat in apportionment from census 2020 results - cleveland.comAn innocuous phrase in the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 2) propels one of the most crucial aspects of the nation’s political dynamics. “The actual enumeration [of persons] shall be made…within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they [Congress] shall by law direct.” Whatever may have been in the minds of or within the intention of the authors of these few words have been endowed with a far greater import than considered in Philadelphia in 1787.

At that time and prior to the first census in 1790, the document afforded Virginia 10 members in the House of Representatives, approximately one for every 30,000 persons. At present, the Commonwealth has 11 congressional districts. Under the 2010 census, the state’s population was 8,001,024, meaning that each district had an average of 727,365 persons. The 2020 census reflects a growth of 7.9%–a population of 8,631,393, translating into 784,672 in each district. Thus, Virginia’s 11 districts are to be reapportioned to absorb some 630,369 persons. In contrast, the national population was enumerated at 331,449,281 (761,952) persons for each of the 435 House districts.

Apportioning the increase will necessitate redrawing of district boundaries, a task now under the purview of the Virginia Redistricting Commission (VRC), which has established October 25 as its deadline to provide new maps in time for the 2022 midterm elections. If the legislature fails to approve the VRC’s proposed maps without amendment in two attempts, the responsibility falls to the state Supreme Court. Under SCOTUS decisions from the early 1960s and under the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act, state legislatures have little wiggle room in reapportionment determinations. In fact, the National Conference of State Legislatures says that the “Apportionment Clause of Article I, Sec. 2 of the Constitution requires that all districts be as nearly equal in population as practicable, which essentially means exactly equal.” 

SCOTUS has ruled that congressional districts must reflect the principle of “one person, one vote” (OPOV). That principle is not difficult, as it is amenable to analysis by arithmetic calculation. In fact, guidelines adopted by the VRC provide that, “Each congressional district shall be drawn with a total population of plus or minus one person from the ideal district size.”  (Microsoft Word – 2021 Redistricting Guidelines and Criteria (8-19-2021).docx (virginiaredistricting.org)).

District boundaries are required to be guided by the “four C’s,” which are generally accepted as contributing to equality and equitability: Contiguity to ensure constituents are physically adjacent, compactness to avoid separating areas, community of interest to promote common social and economic interests, and consistency to respect other jurisdictional boundaries.

Nor are states unrestrained in creating district distortions (i.e., gerrymandering) to accommodate other vested interests. District boundaries are required to be guided by the “four C’s,” which are generally accepted as contributing to equality and equitability:

Contiguity to ensure constituents are physically adjacent, compactness to avoid separating areas, community of Interest to promote common social and economic interests, and consistency to respect other jurisdictional boundaries.

The table below (derived from Virginia Public Access Project publications) depicts the present populations of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, the present political party incumbency, and the numeric level or reapportionment of residents to meet the OPOV 784,672 objective under existing criteria. Whatever the present district boundaries, those will be altered, some dramatically, others perhaps only modestly.

VA Dist. /

Party

2020

 Population

Gap:

+/- OPOV*

01 / R

827,606 -42,934

02 / D

750,830 +33,842
03 / D 756,761

+27,911

04 / D 789,815

-5,143

05 / R

739,211 +45,461

06 / R

763,401 +21,271
07 / D 817,419

-32,747

08 / D 798,257

-13,385

09 / R

696,755 +87,917
10 / D 885,422

-100,750

11 / D 805,916

-21,244

*OPOV: One Person, One Vote

The present 7-4 political party division in Virginia appears likely to be tilted toward change favorable to Democrats as the shifts in resident populations range from a low of 5,000 to a high of 100,000. It is conceivable that the resident increase of 21,000+ in Republican VA 06 may not be politically consequential, but the 87,000+ in VA 09 cannot be without partisan impact.  The loss of 42,000+ in VA 01 is also not a negligible change.

Five currently Democratic districts will experience the reapportionment of  over 173,000 residents to adjacent districts assuming the VRC closely follows redistricting criteria.  As noted above, three currently Republican districts, under one person, one vote, must absorb an increase of about 150,000 residents.

While media have been quick to repeat the canard that the party in control of the White House historically loses House seats, the census data may not only mitigate that prediction but may be proven hollow as urban and suburban areas continue to gain in population and aggregate in density. For example, in the 2020 presidential election, the Democrat captured the vote in 22 of 30 of Virginia’s most populated localities.

Intrastate reapportionment unsettles the best pundit pronouncements and guestimates/  The effect upon the national gains and losses in 2022 is even more problematic given the seven states that have experienced either a loss or gain of a House seat.

 



Categories: congress, democrats, elections, GERRYMANDERING, Issues, National, political parties, politics, republicans, State

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