Loudoun Supervisors Hear First Redistricting Briefing

County supervisors on Monday held the first of what will likely be many meetings on drawing new county electoral districts.

The 2021 redistricting process has been greatly delayed at every level, with detailed 2020 U.S. Census data not expected to be released until September—less than a month before the November elections, when new House of Delegates districts were supposed to be in place.

Supervisors have made one redistricting decision so far: They voted unanimously on Monday to retain eight districts and one chair-at-large, keeping the board at nine members. They also set guidelines for how the new districts will be drawn—some of which are matters of state law, and some of which will be decisions by the county board. For example, County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said there would be nothing in the guidelines to protect supervisors from being drawn out of the district they represent today, one of the criteria used during the last redistricting process 10 years ago.

“In my opinion, there should be nothing at all in our guidelines to protect incumbency at all,” Randall said. “And supervisors, I realized that I say this as the chair of the county and it doesn’t apply to me in the same way, and I may or may not run again for chair of the county. But either way, I just don’t believe elected official should choose the voters. I think voters should choose their representatives.”

She said that could mean supervisors could even be drawn out of their own districts, and that things like district names could change. Communities of similar interests should be kept together, under the adopted guidelines. Also, towns should not be divided, although Leesburg could be an exception.

The state constitution also requires that districts should be “contiguous and compact” and should have roughly equal numbers of citizens.

Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said he plans to offer a motion in the future to ensure that the county has two western districts again—as today’s Catoctin and Blue Ridge districts—although that could be difficult to do without drawing those boundaries to pick up some of the more populous areas in or around Leesburg and east. Today’s Catoctin District already wraps completely around Leesburg and borders the Ashburn District, meaning people in River Creek are voting for the same supervisor and School Board member as people in Neersville. The district today is estimated home to about 46,000 people, shy of the 53,000 people that county staff members estimate will be in each new district.

Meanwhile, Blue Ridge is largest district by population today, but also the largest by acreage—it reaches from the western border to Dulles Airport and encompasses half the county by acreage. It is estimated at 86,000 people, more than twice as many as the least populous district, Sterling, with 41,000 people.

Supervisors agreed on a timeline going forward, which will see the board hearing a report on the new census data in October, with a publicly available mapping tool launching on Nov. 1 and taking public submissions until Nov. 30. Supervisors plan to see a summary of possible scenarios on Jan. 18, 2022, and on March 15 choose which to send to a public hearing on May 11.

Supervisors on Monday also heard about how much the districts have changed since the lines were drawn in 2011.

In 2010, the previous census, Loudoun had a population of roughly 315,000 people. A county contractor now estimates Loudoun County’s population as of July 1, 2020, was 424,000.

The county population’s meteoric growth in southeast Loudoun is reflected in those numbers. In addition to the Blue Ridge District, which covers much of southeastern Loudoun, the Dulles District, which encompassed Dulles International Airport, is the second-largest by population with an estimated 66,000 residents.

One thought on “Loudoun Supervisors Hear First Redistricting Briefing

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: