As 2010 fades into memory, 2011 provides opportunities for New Year’s resolutions and the usual promises to: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, clean out clutter, make a will, etc. One resolution that absolutely, positively, must be kept is adjusting the boundaries of legislative districts to balance population growth indicated by the release of 2010 Census figures. Preliminary figures indicated that Virginia will not get an additional Congressional seat, but all electoral districts must be adjusted and submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice in time to prepare for the 2011 elections. Fairfax County voters will elect the Board of Supervisors, the School Board, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, and all Virginia General Assembly members, both House and Senate, so it will be important for candidates and voters to know which “new” districts they reside in as soon as possible.
The last time Fairfax County redistricting was done in an election year was 1991. Longtime observers will recall that a ninth magisterial district, Sully, was created in the western part of the county at that time, so there were several shifts of precincts to accommodate the change. The 2001 redistricting was less eventful. For the most part, small adjustments were made to balance population, and potential candidates had a couple of years to get acclimated to the new magisterial populations before the next election. In 2011, however, the time frame is much tighter, prodded partly by State Code changes that govern when absentee ballots must be available. Specific census data will not be released to Virginia until sometime in February. The General Assembly will address redistricting of Congressional and state legislative seats during their upcoming session.
At the same time, the 2011 Citizen Advisory Reapportionment Committee, a 19-member panel appointed by the Board of Supervisors, will begin weekly meetings to review legal requirements and available census data. The citizen committee will provide recommendations to the Board in early March, with a public hearing on the recommendations scheduled for March 29. Adoption of the final plan is expected on April 26, and the plan will be submitted immediately to the Department of Justice for federal preclearance, anticipated for sometime in June. Mason District boundaries are not expected to change significantly, although some minor adjustments probably will be necessary to balance population growth among the districts.
One of the challenges to the time frame is that primary elections for Board and state offices are scheduled for June 14. That date is expected to be pushed back to later in the summer, since the 45-days-in advance requirement for availability of absentee ballots for a June 14 primary would kick in on April 30, not possible in the existing cycle. The General Election will occur on November 8, a date which cannot be changed.
An even shorter time frame is January 10, the deadline for making prepaid applications for the “In Remembrance April 16” license plate to honor those who died, and those who survived, the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech. The VTV Family Outreach Foundation is leading the effort, which needs 350 applications by January 10 before the General Assembly will approve the license plate design. Visit http://vtvfoundation.wsiefusion.net/license-plates.html for detailed instructions about how to obtain a license plate application.
Happy New Year!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]