The Constitution of the United States (Article I, Section 2) requires an enumeration of people to determine the number of Representatives for each state. The requirements of that ancient document have been followed for more than 200 years, but perhaps with much more angst and interpretation now than in the past. At the Commonwealth level, the failure of the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission to agree about anything may force the decisions about new Congressional and General Assembly districts to the Virginia Supreme Court. Surely the voters who supported the ballot question last year, which created the commission, are disappointed, but perhaps not surprised.
At the local level, the responsibility for adopting redrawn magisterial district boundaries rests with the Board of Supervisors. In June, the Board appointed a 20-member Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) to review the census data and make recommendations for new maps. The RAC had one member from each magisterial district, plus representatives from the NAACP, the Democratic and Republican parties, the Federation of Citizens Associations, and other recognized groups. Plans were solicited from the general public, and a total of 64 suggested maps were submitted. Most maintained nine districts, but there were some 10— and 11— district proposals, too, many more than the three plans submitted by the public in 2011. All the 2021 maps are available on-line at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/redistricting.
Census data indicates that Fairfax County grew only by 69,139 residents during the decade. In 2010, census data showed that Mason District had the fewest residents, 109,326; in 2020, Mason District still had the fewest people, 119,416. For comparison, the neighboring Providence District has 139,268, probably reflecting the high residential growth in the Tysons area. In 2001 and 2011, redistricting moved a handful of precincts, and the same is anticipated this time. Although some plans suggested moving dozens of precincts, the goal of redistricting is not to disrupt, but maintain fair and proportional representation.
At the public hearing conducted at the Board of Supervisors meeting last week, many speakers advocated to stay in their current district, although several speakers made impassioned demands for a new 10th district, to encompass the Lorton area in the southern part of the county. Mason District, most likely, will have to add one or two precincts to balance population, and Providence District is likely to lose one or two, not necessarily all to Mason. Any changes to magisterial district boundaries will not change school attendance boundaries, a responsibility of the School Board, not the Board of Supervisors.
The hearing record remains open; public comments will be accepted until December 7, when the Board is expected to adopt final maps. The RAC is being extended to consider potential name changes for magisterial districts, most likely for Lee and Sully, both named for people who enslaved others, and Springfield, which contains very little of what we know as Springfield. New boundaries would take effect immediately; district name changes would be considered in the spring.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.