While the statewide and federal efforts to redraw boundaries of voting districts have drawn accusations of gerrymandering, the redistricting that will take place this year in the county has drawn comparatively little criticism.
The lack of vigor was demonstrated by the fact that only five speakers appeared before the Board of Supervisors yesterday to register their opinion on the county’s redistricting plans.
Just as it is at the state and federal levels, redistricting in the county is mandated by law every 10 years in conjunction with the results of the United States Census.
The mandate requires a review of boundaries, but does not require that those boundaries be changed, though that seems likely this year.
The Board of Supervisors appointed an Advisory Citizen Redistricting Committee led by former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Katharine Hanley. Hanley’s committee featured members across party and racial lines, from each supervisory district. Hanley’s group worked with the Board of Supervisor’s Legislative Committee, which is chaired by Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay.
All told, Hanley’s committee put forth 22 different alternatives to address the population changes that have occurred in the county since the last redistricting in 2000. Of the 22, there are options which keep the number of districts at nine as well as options which increase the total to 10, and even 11.
*In addition to the 22 submitted by Hanley's Committee, three more plans were submitted by private citizens.
At present, there is one supervisor per 120,192 citizens. Some feel that for the creation of a 10th Supervisor District, either in the Tyson’s Corner area or in Lorton.
McKay believes that a tenth district will come—in 2021. “Creating a new district would be extremely disruptive at this stage,” he said. McKay then noted that redistricting comes with several restrictions, the most paramount of which might be to limit the amount of citizen disruption. Hanley’s committee took this factor under consideration as none of the 22 plans offered will move current members of the Board of Supervisors or School Board out of their districts. Furthermore, plans should not unnecessarily break up neighborhoods and civic/homeowners’ associations.
McKay said that another of the restrictions is that boundary changes cannot reflect anticipated population changes. Were that the case, Tyson’s would almost certainly be earmarked for a tenth district, as it is projected to add up to 60,000 new residents in the next decade. As a means of comparison, the South County area—which includes Lorton—has added approximately 15-20,000, and its growth is believed to have capped.
That type of population spike is of concern to the League of Women Voters, whose representative Therese Martin, told the Board of Supervisors, that, “The districts are becoming too large…for all communities to feel represented.”
McKay disagreed with the suggestion that the ratio of citizens to supervisors is too great. “We’ve been doing it this way for ten years and I think we’ve become accustomed to it.”
For the next two weeks McKay and the other members of the board will review the proposals put before them yesterday and then vote on one at the next board meeting on April 26.
* - Note: This paragraph was added on April 14th, 12 noon.