Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Virginia Democratic Congressional redistricting plan - worse than the gerrymandered House atrocity

It looks like the congressional redistricting plan from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has been released . . . sortof.  A map described as “Senate Democratic Plan” is now available on the Virginia Redistricting website.   It pains me to congratulate the MSM, but: Congratulations to the Washington Post for the scoop on the release of the plan.   

Despite what the Washington Post says, it is largely a rewrite of the gerrymandered plan proposed in the House with the implicit agreement of Virginia’s Congressional delegation.  The details, including the population totals, and minority populations for the proposed districts are not yet available.  So between the House and the Senate plan the major improvement is in the 3 District which is now very compact and represents a clearer cohesive community of interest.  The 11 is just as bad, and there are minor improvements to the 2, and 5 districts.   The proposed first district is worse than the proposed House version, but does not warrant immediate additional scrutiny.

The proposed fourth

The problem with this plan is the bizarre 4 District intended to create a “minority influence” district.  The proposed 4 District is gerrymandered in such a way as to make the Senate Democratic Howell plan look reasonable in comparison.

Here is a map of the proposed fourth:

Here is the Richmond area:

The Richmond area has a number of strangely shaped precincts which , without adjacent precincts, cause odd bottlenecks barely connecting adjacent territory.  In the proposed fourth there is a one hundred foot bottleneck in the 410 precinct, a 700 foot bottleneck in the Reams precinct, and an 800 foot bottleneck in the Five Forks precinct.

The district then runs down to the North Carolina border, and then over east into a gerrymander in Suffolk and Chesapeake Cities.

The oddest part of this gerrymander is the bottleneck in northern Suffolk City designed to capture the Harbour View precinct.  This is the same precinct where special efforts have been made to include the precinct in the proposed Virginia Senate District 1 (my fourth most gerrymandered proposed Senate district).


All told the district looks like a monster with a plume consuming the southern part of the proposed first district consisting largely of Prince George, Surry, and Smithfield Counties.  If those three counties had not been carved out, arguments that the proposed fourth is not compact might very well dissipate.  As it stands, this new Senate plan appears even worse than the proposed House plan in terms of compactness and contiguity.

As with previous posts, higher resolution PDFs of the maps can be found here.

For other redistricting posts, primary sources, and other information regarding the Virginia Redistricting process in 2011 please see The Road to Redistricting Litigation in Virginia.

UPDATE: 16:00 EDT Monday April 11, 2011.  It appears that DLS has sent the map down the memory hole.  There is a suggestion in the Washington Post article, that the maps will be put back up after 4:00 PM April 11, 2011.  Until that time, please enjoy the maps I gathered yesterday April 10, 2011.

UPDATE 2: At approximately 19:00 the maps and underlying data appear to have been posted by DLS.  According to the data, District 4 is the new minority majority district, and District 3 is the "minority influence" district.

UPDATE 3: As of June 9, 2011, the Senate has passed a modified version of its previous plan.  The districts are far more compact and arguably more compact than the House plan.  It is far from perfection, and the majority-minority district barely tops over 50% Black Voting Age Population, making it harder to gain preclearance.  Nonetheless, it has only taken two and a half months, but the Senate Democrats are figuring out how to gain more support by making their plans more reasonable.  The publicly available information on this plan can currently only be found on the Division of Legislative Services redistricting website.

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