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Draft Congressional Maps Include Big Changes For Central And Western Virginia

Draft Congressional Map
Virginia Redistricting Commission
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One of the draft Congressional maps reviewed by the Virginia Redistricting Commission

After failing to agree on new maps for state legislative districts, Virginia's Redistricting Commission is moving on to federal Congressional districts. The drafts reviewed Thursday included some big changes for southwest and central Virginia.

The series of drafts reviewed Thursday largely left the 3rd and 4th Congressional districts in Southside and the Richmond area unchanged because of the strict scrutiny required for these areas by the Voting Rights Act.

But it was a different story in the western half of the state. The drafts move Roanoke City and most of Roanoke County into the 9th District, in order to meet population targets there.

The 5th district gives up its northern stretches and instead moves east into the suburbs of Richmond, leading Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon to wonder what a voter in blue-trending Henrico County would have in common with a voter in the rural red areas along the North Carolina line. "This is the kind of a move that makes me feel a little suspicious at what’s behind where these lines go. I’m just trying to be straightforward about it," Simon told fellow commissioners. He later called the drafts "a non-starter."

The drafts also move the politically competitive 7th District to the north to include the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. And the map drawers move Charlottesville and Albemarle County into the 6th District.

View the draft Congressional maps here

The drafts are more compact than the current districts, which citizen commissioner Richard Harrell said was a goal all along. "If we want to have compact, logical districts, something’s got to give," Harrell, who is from South Boston, argued. "And we can’t let a couple people saying we shouldn’t be on one side of a mountain or the other. That’s fairly irrelevant in terms of these federal maps because we are so far away from one another in sparsely populated parts of the state."

Commissioners did not vote on the drafts and will meet again on Monday.

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