When the Board of Supervisors last drew up Loudoun’s local election districts in 2011, One Loudoun was still a construction site, the recently decommissioned space shuttle Discovery had not yet been placed in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and supervisors hadn’t yet decided to bring Metrorail to Loudoun.
Since the last U.S. Census in 2010, Loudoun has grown by more than 100,000 people. That census counted 312,311 Loudouners; today, the county government estimates there are almost 413,000 people living in Loudoun. And after the 2020 U.S. Census comes up with an official figure, the Board of Supervisors will have to draw new election districts with roughly equal numbers of people in each.
And while estimates vary exactly how out of balance the districts are today, one thing is clear—they will have to change.
When the districts were drawn, they were calculated to have between 40,464 residents in the Algonkian District, which was the largest district at the time, and 38,001 residents in the Sterling District. The Department of Justice, which must approve districting plans, approved the districts the county has today in June 2011.
The Census Bureau estimates that as of 2017, the district populations ranged from 41,292 in the Sterling District to 58,718 in the expansive Blue Ridge District—one that covers half of the county’s land area, stretching from Rt. 9’s crossing into West Virginia to the county’s southern border, and picks up some of the county’s fastest-growing southeastern areas near Dulles Airport.
Loudoun and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments do more granular annual population forecasts, based on traffic analysis zones—in Loudoun, 282 sections of the county, delineated by roads. Comparing those 2020 population forecasts to Loudoun’s districts yields even more stark differences among the districts. According to those forecasts, the Blue Ridge District is expected to have around 86,000 residents in 2020. That’s almost double the smallest district, Catoctin, which is expected to have around 44,000.
And none of those calculations take into account the county’s new comprehensive plan, which is expected to allow yet more growth, including in some of the county’s fastest-growing areas.
When voters go to the polls in November, they will pick the Board of Supervisors that will draw the new lines.
“You want to, as much as possible, have districts where the people who live there have the same issues,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “One thing that’s tough about, say, the Blue Ridge District, is people who live well in western Loudoun County and people who live in, say, Brambleton have very different issues.”
State code requires those districts be “be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district or ward”—something the districts, as drawn, likely do not do. While the Blue Ridge District covers land from West Virginia to Dulles Airport, the Catoctin District wraps around Leesburg, putting Lovettsville, in far northwestern Loudoun, and River Creek, east of Leesburg, in the same election district. Likewise, it can be difficult to drive from one end of the Dulles District to the other without leaving the district—it’s divided in half by an international airport.
And as Randall pointed out, although today Loudoun has two western districts, it is conceivably possible to have no county supervisors who actually live in the rural west.
“Obviously it’s a conversation with a different board that none of us know the makeup of at this point, but the board is going to have to recognize the shift in the population center of the county to the south and the to the east,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “I think that’s going to be a little bit of a difficult realization for some of the folks in the county who have been here a long time, and who have been used to the way that we’ve been doing things.”
And while elected bodies drawing their own election districts is often a fiercely partisan battle—with a narrow majority of Democrats on the Loudoun board last time—members of both parties said they hope to avoid that.
“I hope that it’s not an arduous, disagreeable process, because really, it just doesn’t have to be,” Randall said. “If we just get some rules in place, then the lines themselves may be hard to figure out, but it doesn’t have to be hard.”
“It’s never made any sense that when you drive drown Rt. 50, StoneSprings Hospital is not my district, or Dulles Landing. A huge percentage of people using those facilities are coming from my district. … There needs to be that kind of common-sense, shared experience,” Letourneau said.