How will we keep an eye on redistricting?

I’m really worried about how redistricting is going to happen. It strikes me as enormously likely that House Republicans and Senate Democrats will go into their respective huddles, and emerge with new district lines that will be voted on immediately. I fully anticipate that the first time that we see these lines will be when they are the law of the land. There will not be round after round of proposed district boundaries posted online, subject to public scrutiny, modified in response to public comment. Or, again, so I fear.

What’s to be done? Can we count on traditional media outlets—dwindling resources and all—to elbow their way into the proverbial smoke-filled rooms and tell us what’s going on? Will VPAP’s efforts be enough? What could be done, in theory? Imagine a healthy budget, tenacious volunteers, enthusiastic investigative reporters, and ample resources. In the face of a secretive legislature, determined to draw partisan boundaries, what would you have such a crew do to open up this process?

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

5 replies on “How will we keep an eye on redistricting?”

  1. The Republicans are way ahead on this. They are not only hard on it at the state level but at the local level they are looking at how to configure counties so that strong Republican districts can be created – and that these districts will serve as a training ground for GOP candidates to take the first step towards State and Federal politics.

    Our future GOP elected are going to learn their trade at the BOS level by competing in country districts that have been created demographically as Republican-leaning.

    In terms of citizens participating at the local or state level – they need the ability to offer their alternative via county-wide, district-wide referenda.

    If they had that right – then redistricting would become the province of citizens not politicians and gerrymander games would stop.

  2. The timeline itself creates the biggest issues. The lines have to be drawn and approved in time for the fall elections – and the final population numbers won’t be available until February or March.

    I think it is time for Virginia to consider moving its legislative elections to the even years, like most other states. That way, even if the legislature maintains control of drawing the lines (which I would prefer they did not), simply giving more time to fully vet the proposals would happen.

    As for this cycle – I’m afraid the horse is already out of the barn. I understand that draft proposals already exist for both the House and Senate, with the Congressional lines not far behind. Yes, both the House and the Senate have been holding public hearings (separately, of course) but I consider that a dog-and-pony show. The public will have very little input into this process.

  3. The timeline itself creates the biggest issues. The lines have to be drawn and approved in time for the fall elections – and the final population numbers won’t be available until February or March.

    This is, for me, the biggest puzzle about this whole affair. I cannot understand how they will redistrict without knowing the new population numbers—the ostensible purpose of redistricting.

  4. They can use the 2008 numbers. They are estimates, but they figure to be pretty close to the 2010 census data.

    Already, many of the decisions are pretty obvious. In Congressional redistricting, for example, everything will be driven by how the 10th is split up. It is 130,000 over its target. If Wolf gives up Winchester and Frederick County, they will almost surely be attached to Bob Goodlatte’s district, and the 6th will then be shrunk to compensate by giving large portions of Roanoke County to the 9th. If Wolf is going to keep Winchester and Frederick County, and give up his part of Prince William and some of the southern and eastern parts of Fairfax, then the 6th will have to grow elsewhere. These are the sorts of issues that can be grappled with now, with the final boundaries tweaked.

    By the way, I have been wasting a lot of time playing with Dave’s Redistricting App, which is really a cool tool. Use the 2008 numbers; you can get a pretty good idea of the choices to be made. Now, if Dave could just put Democratic performance into his database for each of the voting districts…

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