Redistricting Virginia (A comprehensive look with three scenarios)

Virginia offers one of the most intriguing opportunities for redistricting after the 2010 census. The current map is based off of a Republican gerrymander, initiated after Republicans took firm control of both the House or Delegates and State Senate ahead of the 2001 redistricting. Thus Democrats stand to gain even under a bi-partisan or non-partisan scheme. Currently a numberof schemes are possible depending on the outcome of the 2009 state elections. Below I outline the likelihood of each scenario and an example of a redistricting scheme that could result from such a scenario.

NOTE: Current map can be accessed here:…

Scenario 1. Bi-partisan or non-partisan redistricting

This is far and away the most likely outcome. Currently Democrats control the State Senate by a slim 21-19 margin. This control will prevent Republicans from enacting a gerrymandered scheme as long as Democrats do no suffer any mid-term retirements (an unlikely though not impossible sceneario as will be discussed in scenario 3). In addition, the political winds seem to be blowing against the Democrats in Virginia this year, so it seems almost equally unlikely that Democrats will gain control of both the governership and House of Delegates in 2009 and be able to enact a Democratic gerrymander. Therefore, the most likely outcome is that redistricting will occur either through a bi-partisan negotiating process, or a non-partisan panel (both have been discussed). Although there would be minor differences between the two outcomes, the sample map below is a good example of what either might look like since it both protects endangered incumbents and keeps similar “communities of interest” together. This sample map would likely maintain the current 6-5 Dem majority but could easliy support anything from a 7-4 Dem Majority to a 7-4 Rep majority in the long run

Bipartisan - state

CD #1 (Dark blue) – This largely resembles the current incarnation of the district. It should be marginally more Republican as it’s lost majority-minority areas in Prince William County and Hampton Roads in exchange for more conservative areas of Fauquier County, Prince William, and the Northern Neck.


CD #2 (Green) – The GOP was too clever by half in it’s 2001 redistricting scheme. Because of demographic and political changes both district 2 and district 4 became politically competitve and were won by Obama in the 2008 election. The 2nd seeks a compromise by making the 2nd more dem friendly for Glenn Nye in exchange for making the 4th a strong Republican district to protect Randy Forbes. Under this map, majority African American areas of Chesapeake previous in the 4th have been given to the 2nd in exchange for extremely conservative areas of coastal Virginia Beach. (Also note that Rep-leaning areas of Hampton have been ceeded to the 1st).

CD #3 (Purple)- Bobby Scott’s district needed to expand as it primarily consists of urban African-American sections of Richmond and Hampton Roads that have not kept pace with the state’s population growth over the last 10 years. As part of the compromise to strenghten the 2nd while weakening the 4th, the 3rd takes overwhelming African-American Petersburg from Forbes’s district while leaving Nye with many majority African-American areas in Hampton Roads.

CD #4 (red)- See above for most changes. In addittion, Forbes’s district gaines almost all of heavily Republican Chesterfield county.

CD #5 (yellow)- Tom Periello’s district is currently quite precarious and will probably stay that way under any bi-partisan compromise. Unfortunately there’s no way to make the district radically stronger without serious gerrymandering (which will not be possible under a bi-partisan compromise) due to the lack of other strong Democratic areas in the vicinity of Charlottesville. However, the district should become marginally more friendly as it has not kept up with the states population growth over the past 10 years and therefore gains the swingy locality of Lynchburg.

CD #6 (teal)- Becomes even more strongly Rep-leaning as Republicans compromise by giving the Dem-leaning city of Roanoke to the slow growing 9th in exchange for heavily Rep areas of the Shenandoah valley that have to be shed from the fast growing 10th.

CD #7 (gray)- No significant changes, the 7th remains a staunchly conservative district that provides a comfortable home to Eric Cantor.

CD #8 (light purple)- District has to expand as inner-Nova’s growth has not been as dramatic as PW or Loudon counties. Takes in heavily dem areas of Fairfax county and remains the heavily Democratic home of Jim Moran.

CD #9 (light blue)- The most rural, and slow growing district of the state must expand and does so by taking in Dem leaning Roanoke in exchange for less populous areas around Covington and Martinsville. This district is marginally more Democratic and should continue to easily re-elect Rick Boucher. However, it will still be very difficult to fill the seat with a Democratic replacement upon his retirement


CD #10 (pink)- Outer Norther Virginia has both grown by leaps and bounds and become more Dem-friendly over the past few years. This bi-partisan compromise gives Wolf the most Rep-friendly district possible without sever gerrymandering (in exchange for Republican concessions on the 5th and the 9th). However, this new district will still be significantly more Dem-friendly than its current incarnation. While Wolf might continue to squeak by, the district will likely flip Democratic upon his retirement.

CD #11 (lime green)- Part of the compromise to protect Wolf is necessarrily to make the 11th even more strongly Dem leaning than it is currently. By picking up marority-minority areas of Eastern Prince William and losing Strong-Rep areas of Western Prince William the district move from having a strong Democratic lean to a heavily Democratic district that could not elect a Republican even under the most ideal circumstances.

The other two scenarios (a Republican or Democatic controlled gerrymander) are much less likely and as such will be discussed in less detail below.

Scenario 2 – A Democratic gerrymander

Given the high hill the Democrats would have to climb to reach a majority in the House of Delegates and the unfriendly political winds blowing against the Democrats this scenario is possibly the least likely of the three.  However, politics is, as always, unpredictable, and if the Democrats do recover steam in time for the 2009 elections they may be able to enact a gerrymander similar to the one envisioned below. This example map would likely create a 7-4 Dem Majority.


Notable differences from the bi-partisan scheme

1. In Northern Virginia:

   Frank Wolf’s 10th takes heavily Democratic Arlington and Falls Church making his reelection next to impossible. Although the 11th is less Dem friendly it is still majority-minority. All three NOVA districts are strongly Democratic and should return Dem reps for the next 10 years

2. In Hampton Roads and Richmond:

   Glenn Nye’s 2nd district takes on all the majority African-American areas of South Hampton Roads and becomes a majority minority district with whites and blacks exist in almost equal proportions. Not suprisingly it is very strong Dem district (Obama prob won by at least 20 points). Suprisingly Bobby Scott’s district can maintain it’s majority minority status (and keep Scott’s base in Newport News) by taking Petersburg and African-American heavy areas of Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Randy Forbes 4th becomes a staunchly Republican as it’s majority African American areas are raided to strengthen the 2nd.

3. In the Southside/SW Virginia

  Periello’s 5th is strengthened (but not radically changed) by the inclusion of heavily African-American areas of Lynchburg, and Southeast Virginia, in addition to the swingly college towns of Harrisonburg and Staunton, in exchange for the overwhelmingly Republican areas of Appomattox, Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties. The 9th becomes more dem friendly, losing heavliy Republican rural SW VA counties in exchange for Dem-friendly Roanoke and swingy counties along the WV border.

Scenario #3 – Republican gerrymander

 Although Republicans seem somewhat likely to take the Governorship and extremely likely to retain control of the House of Delegates, there will not be an election in the Dem controlled state Senate before the next redistricting scheme is encacted. However the current Democratic majority is potentially precarious as it could be disrupted by the retirement of 82 year-old Chuck Colgan who represents a marginal seat in Northern Virginia that could flip Republican in a special election. In addition one member of the Democratic caucus (Ralph Northam of Norfolk) nearly left to join the Republicans earlier in the year. If a 20-20 tie occurs it will be broken by the Lietenant Governor who, given the current political enviornment, could very well be Republican candidate Bill Bolling. Although these are not good signs, Democrats can take solace in that a victory by Republican candidate Ken Cucinelli in the Auttourney General’s race would trigger a special election to fill his Senate seat — a seat won by Obama by a 12 point margin in 2008 that could very well flip Dem in the election and restore Democratic contol over the chamber. Nonetheless, if the worst does happen the Republicans would likely draft a map that looks something like this. This example map would likely create a 7-4 Republican Majority.


Notable differences with the Bi-partisan plan

1. In NOVA

  Democratic Strength in the region is concentrated in the 8th and 11th, and consigned the the heavily Republican 1st. The 10th is left with all the Republican areas and a larger share of the Shenadoah valley, making it a more hospitable district for Wolf and future Republican successors

2. In Richmond/Hampton Roads

 By Bobby Scott’s taking over heavely African-American Petersburg, the 4th and afford to take strong AA areas from the 2nd in exchange for strongly Republican areas of Chesapeake and Suffolk. In addition the 1st cedes Poquoson (which McCain carried by 50 points in 2008) and similarly rock-ribbed Republican areas of York County to the 2nd. The new 2nd is not completely unwinnable for Nye, but will probably flip Republican as long as they can find a somewhat credible challenger.

3. In SW Virginia/Southside

  Periello’s 5th is eviscerated as his base in Charlottesville is added to the rock ribbed Republican 6th. Without heavily Dem Charlottesville/Albemarle the 5th becomes a very difficult climb for any Democrat and unwinnable for a relatively liberal Democrat like Periello. Although the 6th gains this Dem bastion it too is unwinnable for any Dem candidate, with the loss of Democratic Roanoke, and the addition of heavily Republican areas of the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia. Republicans make minimal changes to the 9th and remain confident that the district will flip back to them upon Boucher’s retirement.

Suffice to say, a lot hangs on the results of the state elections in Virginia this Novemeber. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or observations.