County supervisors have sent a proposal for new local election districts to a public hearing on May 11.
That map is likely to guide Board of Supervisor and School Board elections for the next decade, until the next decennial census.
At their meeting April 5, supervisors heard a report on their final round of changes to the map from a meeting in March, as they shift to some neighborhoods into single districts based on community feedback. The last round of edits further builds on a proposal developed by Supervisors Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
But some supervisors worried about adopting a map that could see unbalanced district populations even before its first election.
Of particular concern is the new southwestern district, which goes forward with names pitched including Little River and Evergreen. Supervisors agreed unanimously Tuesday night to retire the name Blue Ridge from consideration.
If Loudoun’s population were divided evenly among eight districts based on 2020 Census data, each district would have 52,641 residents. State law dictates those maps must be drawn according to the latest census data—rapidly-aging data given the county’s rapid growth—with roughly proportional populations, all within 5% of that exactly equal target population.
On March 15 supervisors voted to add an area to the southwestern district that is currently under development, the Birchwood at Brambleton, to be with the rest of Brambleton. There are more than 800 housing units still to be built in that area.
That district is forecasted to be Loudoun’s fastest-growing through 2030. Under the most recent edits, it would begin its ten-year existence already as the most populous district—more than 1,000 residents above the next-closest district, and more than 4,400 people more than the smallest district—and by 2030 is expected to only widen that gap. It is forecasted to have more than 4,600 more residents than the next-most populous district, and more than 18,800 more residents than the smallest district, the county’s northeastern-most district, resembling today’s Algonkian District and proposed to keep the same name.
That also recalls an existing problem with Loudoun’s districts—today’s larger Blue Ridge District, which reaches further into southeastern Loudoun, is by far the most populous district in the county, with more than double the population of some other districts.
Meanwhile, the new northeastern Algonkian District is expected to see the least growth among all the county’s districts and to fall more than 10,000 residents behind an equal population split by 2030.
But county staff members found the revised map would be allowable under state law. And county supervisors found more to like than dislike about the map.
“If you genuinely believe that this overall map that we have arrived at is harmful to Loudoun County, then by all means, please vote no. But if you’re upset with the process that got us here or you’re upset with a particular narrow feature of the map, I’d ask you to step back and look at the map as a whole,” Turner said. And as a whole, he said, it’s a balanced, compromise map.
And compromise was the theme of supervisors’ comments.
Letourneau, while also voting for the map, said he was concerned by a district with too many people.
“Overage means that [for] those folks, the principle of one person one vote is not really being followed as well as it should be in our representative democracy, and that has been the case in this map that we’ve all been living with for a number of years, and it was almost like that from day one when the [current] Blue Ridge district was created,” he said. But, he conceded, “the problem I have is at the moment, at this point in the process, I can’t pinpoint which thing I would take out to fix that.”
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) called the map “a solid B.”
“To the citizens I would say: if you feel like this map’s not perfect, I join you. But when you compromise, it’s rarely perfect for you. That’s not what a compromise is,” she said.
Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) and Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) voted against the map.
“I think that a lot of it is the process for me, and I disagree that to the naked eye that this looks like we used clear boundaries and that it doesn’t look like we have funky stuff going on. I think it does look like we have funky stuff going on,” Briskman said.
Supervisors voted 7-2. The map will now go to a public hearing May 11 before supervisors take a final vote. After that the map will go the state attorney general for review.
County staff members also reported that the existing election maps will be taken for at least one more spin before the new maps take effect, as Loudoun fills two vacant School Board seats.
The Loudoun Circuit Court ordered the County’s Electoral Board to conduct special elections on Nov. 8, to fill the School Board seats vacated by Beth Barts (Leesburg), who resigned, and Leslee King (Broad Run), who died. Those elections will be held under the existing maps, since they were in effect when the court ordered the special election. Currently Tom Marshall (Leesburg) and Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) fill those seats after being appointed by the School Board.