PE Begins Plans To Draw Lines

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, February 10, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – Prince Edward supervisors-with now-available census figures-took the first step Tuesday for redistricting and appointed a three-member advisory committee.

It will be an expedited process, as it will be in most localities, to redraw district lines. While primaries are normally scheduled in June, it is expected to be held August 23 this year, giving little time to get the work done.

In at least the past two redistricting efforts the County has utilized a citizen advisory committee that consists of a representative from the Republican and Democratic parties and the NAACP.

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That will continue.

“Once again, we've asked for those nominations,” detailed County Administrator Wade Bartlett. “We received such nominations from each of those three entities.”

The list includes Paul Hoffman, of the Republican Party, Jacqulyn Reid from the NAACP, and Patty Cooper-Jones from the Democratic Party.

Assistant County Administrator Sarah Puckett cited that the work of the committee “will be intensive for a very brief time.”

The schedule, as approved by the board, plans for the advisory committee to begin meeting with staff in mid-February, prepare plan(s) and recommendations February/early March and present a report with alternative plans to the board March 8. The board would have several weeks to review and decide what they would take to public hearing-the hearing on draft redistricting option(s) has been penciled in for March 29, with the board adopting a plan April 12, and submitting it to the U. S. Attorney General for federal preclearance April 29.

Voters would then be notified of election changes by County Electoral Board staff in June and July.

The advisory committee, expected to meet with County Supervisors next Tuesday, would work with County staff, County attorney, and voter registrar and have computer software, demographics and mapping support from the Commonwealth Regional Council.

Ms. Puckett noted that the CRC has purchased software and are downloading all the census data.

“…It's a much more sophisticated mapping system that we have available to us this time,” she detailed. “And it calculates all the demographics and all of the…population for us pretty instantaneously.”

The board, following staff recommendations, agreed to adopt the general process to be followed in redistricting and the composition of the citizen advisory committee, adopted a resolution that includes the statement of goals, criteria and policies, and approved the redistricting schedule.

There could well be some change in the lines given announced census figures. Prince Edward's population rose 18.5 percent the past ten years to 23,368. The Town of Farmville, most of which is in Prince Edward County, increased 20 percent to 8,216.

The County's growth, Bartlett highlighted, was higher than the state average, and out of about 130 localities in Virginia, only 27 had a higher growth rate.

In drawing districts, the memo to the board outlines, representation must meet federal and state requirements of one person, one vote; state law requires election districts to follow clearly defined and observable boundaries; and redistricting must comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended, which prohibits voting practices that have the effect of discriminating against voting rights on the basis of racial minority or language minority and also requires preclearance, a federal review that generally takes 61 days.

Factors courts have recognized as traditional principals (also outlined in the memo): compactness, contiguity, preservation of political boundaries, preservation of communities of interest, preservation of cores of prior districts, and protection of incumbents.

It will be a busy election year for Prince Edward voters. In addition to electing a representative to the State Senate and House of Delegates member this fall, voters will select a Commonwealth's Attorney, treasurer, commissioner of revenue, and sheriff. Also, voters in Lockett, Farmville Districts 101 and 801 and Hampden districts will select representatives to the board of supervisors.