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FairfaxGetting down to crunch time on Fairfax redistricting

Getting down to crunch time on Fairfax redistricting

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Fairfax County supervisors on Dec. 7 will choose from a smorgasbord of 64 redistricting plans to decide the boundaries of the county’s magisterial districts and whether to add districts to account for population growth.

Supervisors must perform redistricting after each decennial census to maintain proportional districts. Resulting districts must be compact and contiguous, have clearly defined boundaries, cause minimal disruption to the existing district in service, and meet state and federal statutory requirements and judicial decisions relating to racial and ethnic fairness, said Deputy County Attorney Erin Ward.

The urban-county-executive form of government used by Fairfax County allows for between five and 11 Board of Supervisors members elected by district. The county long has had nine magisterial districts represented by one supervisor, plus an at-large chairman.

The pandemic delayed the U.S. Census Bureau’s reporting of data from the 2020 census. The bureau on Aug. 12 delivered data to the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, which then adjusted information to account for people incarcerated in federal, state and local correctional facilities.


Fairfax County did not receive the adjusted data until Sept. 1. The information showed that the county’s population grew by 69,130 people from 1,081,726 in 2010 to 1,150,856 in 2020.

The growth was not equal across all nine magisterial districts. In 2010, Mason District was the least populous with 109,326 residents and Mount Vernon had the most with 127,501. In 2020, Mason still was the least-populous district with 119,416 residents and Providence District – which contains much of rapidly growing Tysons –had the most with 139,268.

The Board of Supervisors in February passed a resolution indicating it would not consider redistricting plans with maximum population disparities that are 10 percent or greater or that would deny or abridge the rights of any minority or language group to participate in the political process.

Supervisors encouraged plans based around existing voting-precinct boundaries and said if splitting precincts was necessary, they should be divided along census-bloc boundaries.

Supervisors on June 22 this year appointed 20 members to the Redistricting Advisory Committee and on Sept. 14 adopted a revised redistricting schedule that allowed local residents to submit potential boundary plans.

The 20-member committee met 13 times since July 27 and experienced “significant” delays in getting census information from federal and state governments, which forced supervisors to extend the committee’s work by about two weeks, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).

In all, the committee submitted 64 redistricting plans to the Board of Supervisors, which may be viewed at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/redistricting.

Committee members produced 24 plans, including 13 that maintained the county’s current structure of nine magisterial districts, plus 10 plans featuring 10 districts and one with 11. Of the 40 plans submitted by the public, 19 had nine districts, 15 had 10 districts and six had 11 districts.

Reston resident Paul Berry, who chairs the Redistricting Advisory Committee, said the public had submitted more maps than in any previous redistricting effort.

“Our committee was 100-percent citizen-led and this strong, direct connection to the communities around us enabled a transparent, open process that encouraged participation,” he said.

Berry urged supervisors to consider minimal disruption when approving redrawn districts, so as to give residents as much stability as possible in their civic life. The committee also urged supervisors to select a nine-district plan and undertake a process to rename some magisterial districts and precincts.

Supervisors on Nov. 9 deferred decision on the plans until Dec. 7, but kept the record open for public comments. Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said he had not selected a preferred district plan yet and looked forward to the board’s debate, but added he preferred a nine-district version.

“I feel there has not been sufficient community outreach on the 10- and 11-district options to make such a significant change at this time,” Foust said. “My preference is to retain the nine-district option and to limit the number of precincts that get moved between the existing districts. The next time around, I believe serious consideration should be given to adding a 10th district.”

County residents and leaders who weighed in at a Nov. 9 public hearing argued for keeping their neighborhoods intact.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert asked supervisors to keep the town within one magisterial district, preferably continuing its inclusion in Hunter Mill District.

“Vienna’s population, our demographics, are really not changing dramatically, so we see no need for a change,” Colbert said.

After supervisors adopt an ordinance Dec. 7, the board will submit the new redistricting plan to the Virginia attorney general for review, Ward said. The attorney general will take about 60 days to issue a certificate of no objection, likely in late February.

(In between the start and end of that review process, there will be a new Virginia attorney general, as Republican Jason Miyares on Nov. 2 defeated two-term Democrat Mark Herring. The change in party is unlikely to have any substantive impact on the process leading to approval.)

If the plan included a new district, supervisors then would petition the Circuit Court to order a special election to elect a new supervisor within 45 days of the request, Ward said. Otherwise, supervisors would next face the voters in 2023.

Supervisors praised the redistricting committee’s work, which it executed in a shortened time frame.

“This is a very different process than used in Richmond for redistricting,” said McKay, who like Supervisors Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill) previously served on a redistricting committee. “I can attest to how open and transparent our process is and [it is] a model for how you do redistricting.”

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