Whenever the day comes – and for now that remains a work in progress – Arlington election officials say they will be ready to start re-drawing local precinct lines for elections in 2022 and beyond.
But for now, local election officials across Arlington and statewide are waiting to see how the Virginia Redistricting Commission’s inaugural efforts at drawing new congressional and legislative lines work out.
“This has never been done before – it really is just wait-and-see,” Arlington elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer told Electoral Board members during a Sept. 8 meeting.
“It might be a while,” noted Electoral Board chair Matt Weinstein.
Under the process approved by Virginia voters in 2020, the redistricting commission is in the process of using new federal census data to redraw the 11 congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts and 100 House of Delegates districts. The General Assembly, which previously held control of the redistricting process itself, can either vote in favor of the plans presented or reject them, but cannot make alterations.
If the new maps are rejected, the process moves to the Virginia Supreme Court, which presumably will hire experts to do the map-drawing.
The challenge for local officials: They are not allowed to “split” precincts – each precinct must have voters solely in one House of Delegates district and one state Senate district. Such split districts, though relatively rare in Arlington, have been used in the past, for a number of reasons.
(Arlington benefits from having at-large elections for County Board and School Board. Leaders in jurisdictions like Fairfax County, which elect local officials by districts, will first have to redraw those boundary lines, then deal with the implications of individual voting precincts.)
Rejiggering precinct lines probably will not be the most complicated task ever undertaken by Arlington election officials, but preparations already are under way.
“The second we get those [new district lines], we’re ready,” Reinemeyer said.
Redrawing precinct lines is likely also to bring consideration of what to do with names of precincts that, for whatever reason, might offend certain sensibilities. Electoral Board members earlier this year kicked that can down the road until 2022, and may take the path of least resistance – eliminating names of precincts entirely and simply going with their numbers.