Supervisors Threaten DOJ Complaint if Redistricting Plan Approved

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors is registering its strong disagreement with a proposed redistricting plan and says that it is ready to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice because the plan will divide communities of interest and create irregular district boundaries that do not reflect the county’s political boundaries or population patterns

In a letter to Senator Janet Howell (D – 32nd District) Clarke County Board of Supervisors chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) said “Clarke County strongly objects to being divided as part of the Virginia General Assembly redistricting process.”

Hobert said that proposed plans by Senator Howell and Delegate Chris Jones (R – 76th District) will divide Clarke County, a jurisdiction of less than 15,000 people and less than 10,000 registered voters, and violates the principles stated in the Guide to Local Redistricting for 2011 published by the Virginia Division of Legislative Services.

Hobert, who is also an attorney, said that the plan also violates numerous legal precedents regarding election district creation.

Citing the Guide to Local Redistricting for 2011, Hobert said that election districts are required to be “reasonably compact with irregular district shapes justified because the district line follows a political subdivision boundary or significant geographic feature” and must “represent communities of interest.”

Hobert said told Howell that her redistricting proposal achieves neither requirement.

In fact, the proposed lines follow 2001 Clarke County Election District lines that must be changed as a result of the 2010 Census” Hobert said. “The proposed General Assembly plans will be splitting political subdivisions and precincts. The proposed boundaries follow political subdivision boundaries that have been shifted since 2001. The proposed boundaries will needlessly cause the creation of additional voting precincts and/or the distribution of multiple ballot styles within the same precinct. The approach taken will increase the cost and complexity of the County election process.”

The Howell Senate plan would divide the Town of Berryville, a community of less than 4,200 people and just more than 2,600 registered voters, as well as the Town of Boyce, a community of less than 600 people with less than 400 registered voters” Hobert’s letter continued. “Both the Howell Senate plan and the Jones House plan would divide the African-American community in Clarke County, located primarily in the Town of Berryville in the north central portion of the County and the community of Millwood in the south central portion of the County. Further, the predominately rural area of Clarke will be combined with urban and suburban areas in other jurisdictions that are clearly not communities of interest.”

“These plans will result in Clarke County voters being confused and angry. These plans will further the cynicism of many toward government and will contribute to polarity in the community. Voters will be dispirited and may well disengage from the voting process altogether. Obviously, a small county like Clarke can have only limited impact on its representatives. Further diluting the influence of its voters, with representatives potentially having less interest in the area, gives them second-class status” Hobert’s letter warned.

In an electronic mail message received on Saturday from Hobert, the chairman also drew attention to the lack of formal information being offered by the Commonwealth on its redistricting plans.

“Given the tight time line and commitment to transparency and citizen involvement, why hasn’t the Division of Legislative Services posted the boundary descriptions?” Hobert asked.

A Sunday afternoon check of the Commonwealth’s Division of Legislative Services “Redistricting 2010” website (http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/BoundaryDescriptions.aspx) found that no redistricting information was available.

No redistricting information was available from the Commonwealth’s Division of Legislative Services “Redistricting 2010” website (http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/BoundaryDescriptions.aspx) as of 4:00pm on Sunday, April 3 2011. (Click to enlarge)

“Unless changes are made to the proposed General Assembly boundaries, Clarke County will have to consider filing an objection with the U.S. Department of Justice, because these plans divide communities of interest and create irregular district boundaries that do not reflect 2010 political boundaries or population patterns” Hobert said to Howell in his letter.

Hobert’s letter was copied to Governor Robert McDonnell (R), Senator Jill Vogel (R – 27th District), Delegate Joe May (R – 33rd District), Delegate Clay Athey (R – 18th District) and  Delegate  Beverly J.  Sherwood (R – 29th District).

 

 

Comments

  1. Bocephus says:

    Not sure why the “African-American” community is specifically stated. I have not noticed all the immigrants in our area. We are all “created equal.” Take your heads out and deal with real problems.

    • Roscoe Evans says:

      Clarke County and Virginia have a rather unfortunate and extensive history of discriminatory voting practices, and, as a consequence, are subject to the continuing jurusdiction of the U.S. Justice Department under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Mr. Hobart suggests, the separation of Clarke’s two most prominent African American communities into two distinct voting districts may tend to dilute that voting constituency unnecessarily and inappropriately. This issue and others that he suggests are legitimate reasons for Clarke County and its citizens to consider formal objections to this redistricting. Your comments about African Americans and immigrants suggest that your own head is stuck inappropriately.

  2. wow indeed says:

    While I see the argument, it is a little Ironic considering that CC puts Pine Grove and Millwood together. Pine Grove and MIllwood are clearly 2 different “communities of interest” and are a real “stretch” in geographic boundaries.

  3. Mr. Hobert says, ” “that the plan also violates numerous legal precedents regarding election district creation.”

    Take that one to Richmond, my friend. Seems the majority disagrees with you. And, no, there are no legal precedents on this one. And, for your edification, my lawyer friend,: you cannot violate a precedent .

    Mr. Hobert says,. “The proposed boundaries will needlessly cause the creation of additional voting precincts and/or the distribution of multiple ballot styles within the same precinct. The approach taken will increase the cost and complexity of the County election process.””

    This is reimuburesed by the Commonwealth, my friend. Skip the scarry stuff.

    Mr. Hobert says, “These plans will result in Clarke County voters being confused and angry”

    Oh, we’re not confused, but we sure are angry!

    • wow indeed says:

      Your insincere “my friend” does not make your comment stronger. Neither does any reference to the “majority” in Richmond.

      The Commonwealth has promised reimbursement before. Their promises have proven to be unreliable….

  4. Mimi Stein says:

    Has anyone other than the Supervisors actually looked at the proposed plans?

    Here are the links:

    – House: http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/RedistrictingPlans.aspx#5,map
    -Senate: http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/RedistrictingPlans.aspx#10,map

    Basically, both the House and the Senate plans divide Clarke County into different districts in order to make the numbers work for the political parties and their candidates elsewhere in the region.

    For example, Jill Vogel’s district (Sen 27) has become a giant crescent to take the bulk of Western Loudoun (except for the Democratic portions around Middleburg), a narrow corridor of northern Clarke, most of Frederick County, another narrow corridor of southern Clarke and down into her home county of Fauquier. The middle of Clarke County will join with Middleburg, suburban Brambleton/Broadlands, and suburban Leesburg (most of which are reliably Democratic) to create a safe Democratic seat for a current Loudoun Supervisor who has been trying to move on to the General Assembly since his first day on the Board. It provides the current Loudoun Senator, Mark Herring (Sen. 33), with an absolutely safe seat by moving his opponent (former Loudoun Delegate Dick Black) into another district.

    The House plan does much the same. It removes Democratic Leesburg from Joe May’s District and keeps him fully in the safe red portions of Western Loudoun. However, the Western Loudoun population has grown so much, that he can’t take all of Clarke — only the northern half. The Southern half is placed in a new district with Middleburg, the suburban section of the Route 15 corridor, and Leesburg. This cleanly places Del. May’s Democratic challenger (a Leesburg Town Council member) in a brand new district.

    Now gerrymandering is a grand old American tradition. However, I certainly don’t like it when my locality is the sacrificial lamb. What exactly do Brambleton and Boyce have in common? How do these proposals meet the House and Senate criteria (http://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010/Criteria.aspx) of compactness and communities of interest? Why have criteria if you’re not going to use them. And why tell Counties that they can’t split existing precincts in their own redistricting efforts, and then go ahead and do just that? At County expense I might add.

    All in all, this effort does not improve my opinion of the General Assembly or those who run for it.

  5. Sue Liggett says:

    Mimi- You nailed it.
    Our county does not need another source of conflict or poor representation by having one part of it represented by one party and the other part represented by another party. The county interests and needs would surely be subservient to the interests of the two representatives and their larger constituencies.

  6. Carol Westervelt says:

    A couple of coments:
    The Justice Department has said that Clarke County has been free of voting discrimination for over 20 years.
    The State may reimburse, but that is still OUR money, our tax dollars. Elections are expensive. If we have to have more precincts, we need more election officials, more voting equipment, and more handicapped accessible voting places.

    • Well, I contaced the Justice Department today and this is not at ALL correct;

      “The Justice Department has said that Clarke County has been free of voting discrimination for over 20 years” Shame hsame, Ms. Carol! There are vilolations.

      CDN-time for you to do your homework:)

      • poverello says:

        Sunny, the strongest conclusion you have is that everyone is wrong but you, yet your arguments are specious, not obvious, and…well…kinda dumb. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking that; look at the reader’s votes you’re getting. Lots of negative. Mr. Hobert’s points were well made, and hopefully his letter to the Assembly members will get some rational response.