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Some are Calling for an End to Split Precincts Following Voting Errors in Fredericksburg

AP Photo / Steve Helber

Confusion over split precincts led to a meltdown in Fredericksburg last year, when dozens of voters were given the wrong ballot. Now some lawmakers are hoping for a fix.

When most voters walk into their home precincts, they are handed a ballot that has candidates for one House seat. But some precincts are split in a way where some voters are supposed to receive one ballot while others receive another. That led to massive confusion last year in Fredericksburg, which is why Delegate Vivian Watts wants to outlaw split precincts.

“Four of my 20 precincts are split. One of them is particularly impossible to figure out where that line is. How in the world are the people going to hold me accountable as an elected official if they don’t even know who represents them?”

Getting rid of split precincts might not be as easy as it sounds, says Delegate Chris Jones. He led the map-making process in the House during the last redistricting.

“Congress requires that when you draw the districts they are almost exactly the same population. That’s the law. So I believe you should try to limit the number of split precincts that exist. But it’s impractical to think you could eliminate them because of how you have to draw the congressional lines.”

Republicans says split precincts are needed to follow the law. Democrats say it's a level of gerrymandering that does more harm than good.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.