New Legislative Maps Are Now in Effect; How Will They Impact November's Statehouse Elections?

Oct 18, 2019

Credit MBandman / Creative Commons

Earlier this year, federal judges created new maps for 11 House of Delegates districts in Virginia.

The General Assembly was deep into a trio of blackface and sexual assault scandals when a federal court ordered new maps for House of Delegates districts back in February. The ruling was the end result of a challenge arguing that Republicans used racial gerrymandering to pack black voters tightly into a dozen districts to dilute their influence.

The courts agreed and ordered new maps for those districts and the ones surrounding them, and now Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia wonders what influence all that will have on the election.

“After we get the election results in, it’ll be interesting to note if in fact the Democrats do win how big of a role the new districts will have played and whether the Democrats maybe could have won the majority on the old map,” says Kondik.

But will the new maps really help Democrats all that much? Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says it would help them more if turnout were high. But that’s not what’s expected to happen.

"In lower-turnout races, the electorate tends to be a little bit more conservative," explains Kidd. "And so what looked to be a shift of eight or ten points toward Democrats in a newly drawn district might not be that much of a shift in a race where turnout is half of what it normally would be in a presidential election year.”

Back in 2015, the last time Virginia had this kind of election without any statewide races, turnout was only 29%. Kidd says if Democrats want to win, they’ll need to get people out to the polls in large numbers. Republicans, on the other hand, stand to benefit if turnout numbers are low.

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