Friday, November 19, 2010

Fairfax County, VA: Board Approves Process, Schedule for 2011 Redistricting

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Board Approves Process, Schedule for 2011 Redistricting

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved our process and schedule
our process and schedule for redrawing the lines that make up the nine supervisor districts in the County. The purpose of redistricting is to ensure equitably sized voting districts in the County.

The plan we adopted will allow us to act quickly and involve the community to ensure Fairfax County residents are properly represented on the Board of Supervisors in time for the elections. Growth in Fairfax County over the last 10 years will likely mean some changes, but those changes won't become clear until we are able to look at and analyze the data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

A key change to the 2011 election schedule is the likely decision by State officials to move the primaries from June to mid-August or even early September to account for the tight redistricting timeline. The U.S. Census Bureau will not deliver the data needed to redraw district lines until February. After the Board of Supervisors approves a redistricting plan in late April, it will need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice meaning the redrawn districts will most likely not be official until June.

In adopting the plan, the Board established an Advisory Citizen Committee to participate in the process with County staff. Each district supervisor will appoint one member to the committee along with County-wide organizations. I appointed former Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine Hanley to serve as one of the two at-large members of the committee.

As a former Secretary of the Commonwealth and Board Chairman, Kate clearly has the knowledge and experience to be an active and important member of the Committee. She is also a veteran of three redistrictings.

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Board Agenda Item
November 16, 2010

ACTION – 9


Action to Initiate the 2011 Redistricting of the Election Districts of the Board of Supervisors

ISSUE:

Board action on a process and schedule for considering and implementing the 2011
redistricting of the election districts of the Board based on the population from the 2010 Census.

RECOMMENDATION:

The County Executive recommends that the Board:

(1) adopt and approve the general process and composition of an advisory citizen committee described below for the 2011 redistricting of the election districts of the Board; and (2) adopt the enclosed resolution that will provide a general statement of the goal, the criteria, and the policies that will be followed in the 2011 redistricting of the election districts of the Board.

TIMING:

The Virginia Constitution requires the Virginia General Assembly and those local governing bodies elected by district to consider redistricting in calendar year 2011. Because of the uneven populations among the present County election districts, the Board will need to reapportion the present election districts. This will require the County to: (1) consider changes to the County election districts and precincts; (2) adopt a plan to revise the present election districts; (3) secure federal preclearance of all changes affecting voting pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; (4) notify each County voter of any changes to that voter's election district; (5) be prepared to send out absentee ballots upon request fortyfive days before the primary and general elections; and (6) conduct the primary and general elections based on the new election districts.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau is not expected to be available to the County until February 2011. Assuming that those primary elections are deferred to mid-August, the County will need to consider the new population information and adopt a suitable plan for submission to the U.S. Attorney General for federal preclearance by the end of April 2011.

In order to meet that deadline and to provide appropriate public input, staff recommends that the Board: (1) appoint an advisory citizen committee and task that committee with preparing redistricting alternatives for Board consideration, (2) conduct a public hearing on proposed redistricting plans, and finally, (3) adopt a redistricting plan on April 26, 2011.

Further scheduling information is presented below.

Board Agenda Item
November 16, 2010


BACKGROUND:


On March 13, 2010, the Board noted that April 1, 2010, was National Census Day, and
among other things, on that day the Board requested that the Board Legislative Committee develop guidelines and a schedule for Board consideration of redistricting and a recommended process for engaging citizens in this important matter. Also, on October 19, 2010, the Board asked that staff recommend a slate of seats for the composition of a citizen committee to be provided to the Board on November 16, 2010. These issues were discussed by the Legislative Committee on October 5 and 26, 2010.
In April 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted the national decennial census in
accordance with federal law. The Census Bureau is expected to release detailed population data relating to Virginia in February 2011. That information will be used for a wide range of purposes in future years, but, first and most important, the 2010 Census data will be used to reapportion representation in the United States House of Representatives, state legislatures, and local elected governing bodies. Virginia Code § 24.2-304.1 (2006) requires those local governing bodies elected by district to consider redistricting every ten years using the population data from the U.S. Census, and even though the new Census data are not yet available, there can be no doubt that population changes in the County since 2001 will require redistricting of the election districts of the Board.

Redistricting will require significant efforts by the Board, County staff, and interested County residents. In many ways, those efforts will be similar to previous redistricting inasmuch as populations will be considered and election districts redrawn. Nevertheless, there have been changes in federal and state laws that must be considered, and the widespread availability of computers and data can be expected to create more opportunities for public input than ever before possible.

Legal Constraints
The Board has the responsibility to reapportion the election districts of the governing body and the authority to change the number of those election districts. The urban county executive form of government requires the members of the Board, except for the elected atlarge chairman, to be elected from single-member election districts, and our form of government also provides that the Board may have as many as twelve members (one elected at-large chairman and eleven elected by district) or as few as six members (one elected at-large and five elected by district).1
1 Redistricting of the election districts of the members of the Board will affect the future composition of many County boards, authorities, and commissions. After redistricting, if a member of the Board, the School Board, or any other County board, authority, or commission no longer resides in the district that he or she was elected or appointed to represent, then that member may continue in office until his or her term has expired.

There are three principal requirements that any redistricting effort must satisfy. First, local representation must meet federal and state "one person, one vote" requirements. Those requirements are met by allowing only small population differences among election districts.

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court indicated that a population deviation of less than ten percent among state and local election districts would be presumed constitutional, but even in instances where the deviation is less than ten percent, a good-faith effort to equalize populations using traditional redistricting principles must be shown. Courts have recognized these factors as traditional principles: (1) compactness; (2) contiguity; (3) preservation of
political boundaries, e.g., town boundaries; (4) preservation of communities of interest; (5) preservation of cores of prior districts; and (6) protection of incumbents.

Virginia law also requires election districts to follow clearly defined and observable boundaries. Clearly observable boundaries include any named road, any river, stream, or drainage feature more than forty feet in width, and any natural or constructed feature that appears on the official map of the County issued by the Virginia Department of Transportation or on a United States Geological Survey topographical map.

In addition, local redistricting must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended (Act), and that law has two major components. Section 2 of that Act prohibits any voting practices that have the effect of discriminating against voting rights on the basis of racial minority or language minority, and Section 5 requires federal preclearance of any change affecting voting made by certain state and local governments. The County is required to comply with the federal Section 5 preclearance procedure. That federal review generally takes sixty-one days, so that time must be considered in planning the County's efforts.

Planning for Changes
Planning for the redistricting effort is essential if the County's activities are to meet the substantive legal standards and the required time schedule. At this point, staff planning has focused on three areas: (1) public input; (2) staff support; and (3) scheduling requirements.

First, federal and state laws provide for public access to the redistricting process. The federal regulations on preclearance provide for public input, and those regulations encourage the localities that submit changes for preclearance to provide an account of local public input. In addition, Virginia law requires the Board to adopt the plan by ordinance in public session, and Virginia law provides citizens and news media representatives with access to public records pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

In order to obtain input from the public, in 1991 and 2001, the Board established an advisory citizen committee in each of these redistricting and those committees included representatives from each district and a number of representatives from various community organizations who were nominated to serve on those committees. In a series of evening meetings, these committees met and prepared a number of alternatives that were later considered by the Board. The meetings of those advisory citizen committees were open, and a number of observers and interested persons attended and contributed to the success of those committees. A similar procedure is recommended for 2011.

More specifically, staff recommends that the Board appoint an advisory committee to
consider possible redistricting plans and to recommend redistricting options to the Board.

The members of that advisory committee could be appointed by the Board as early as
November 16, but staff expects that most members would be appointed by the Board from
nominations provided by Board members and community interest groups on either
December 7, 2010, or January 11, 2011. Staff also expects that advisory committee to
begin meeting in January, and those meetings could continue well into March. The time
requirements for committee members will be extensive. Committee members should expect
to meet once or twice a week with County support staff to develop the redistricting plans that the committee will present to the Board for consideration. The committee should submit its report and recommendations to the Board by mid-March 2011. After considering the advisory committee's report and such other information as the Board desires, the Board would then be in a position to advertise those plans that it wishes to consider for possible adoption by the Board on April 26, 2011.

Second, the Board has assigned this issue to the Legislative Committee. With direction from the Legislative Committee, the County Executive's legislative staff will monitor proposed election changes at the 2011 General Assembly to keep the Board apprised of the state situation. The Office of the County Executive, the Office of the County Attorney, and the Department of Information Technology (DIT) will provide primary staff support to the local redistricting effort, together with demographic support from the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (DNCS). The Office of the County Executive will coordinate the overall effort, but because of the extensive legal requirements on redistricting, the Office of the County Attorney will be involved. All data processing and mapping will be done by DIT. Similar staffing arrangements were used successfully in the
County's 1991 and 2001 redistricting.

Third, in regard to scheduling, when the Board redistricted in 1991, the elections for the Board were held later that same calendar year, as will happen in 2011. The schedule described below is similar to the redistricting schedule used in 1991.

Redistricting Schedule
The General Assembly probably will reschedule the 2011 primary elections now scheduled for June 14. Also, the General Assembly has not yet scheduled its own redistricting activities, so given those uncertainties, staff cannot propose a firm schedule of events at this time. Moreover, the Board may need to address the committee recommendations in April while the budget is under consideration.

Nevertheless, for present planning purposes, staff has prepared the following preliminary schedule for County redistricting. Please note that this schedule is based on an expectation that the General Assembly will move the June
primary elections into mid-August:



Task Date


Census population count April 1, 2010

Board adopts general redistricting process, November 16, 2010
staffing arrangements, and resolution

Board appoints committee members December 7, 2010

Census reports data to the U.S. President December 31, 2010

Advisory Citizen Committee begins to Mid-January 2011 meet for initial briefings and software training by County staff

Census data given to Virginia February 2011

Advisory Citizen Committee prepares February and early-March 2011
plans and recommendations

Advisory Citizen Committee presents Mid-March 2011
report with alternative plans to the Board

Board public hearing on recommendations March 29, 2011

Board adopts redistricting plan April 26, 2011

Board adopted plan submitted to the April 29, 2011

U.S. Attorney General for federal
preclearance pursuant to Section 5
asking for expedited consideration

Federal preclearance complete and June 2011
the Board plan becomes effective

Primary elections for the Board and June 14, 2011
certain state and local offices (expected to change to mid-August)

Voters notified of election changes by June and July 2011

County Electoral Board staff

Absentee ballots mailed out to voters Early July

Primary elections for the Board and August 16 or 23, 2011

certain state and local offices (expected new date)

General elections for the Board and November 8, 2011
certain state and local offices

Board takes office using the new districts January 1, 2012

FISCAL IMPACT:


None. No additional personnel costs are anticipated, and most equipment and software that will be used are on hand or have been budgeted and ordered. The advisory citizen
committee is expected to serve without compensation.


ENCLOSED DOCUMENTS:


Attachment 1 – Draft Redistricting Resolution
Attachment 2 – Draft Composition of Citizen Committee Members
STAFF:
Anthony H. Griffin, County Executive
David Molchany, Deputy County Executive
Susan E. Mittereder, Legislative Director, Office of the County Executive
Wanda Gibson, Director, DIT
Gordon Jarratt, Director, Enterprise Systems Division, DIT
Thomas J. Conry, Chief, Mapping Services Branch, DIT
Edgardo Cortés, General Registrar
Anne Cahill, Chief Demographer, DNCS
David P. Bobzien, County Attorney
Michael Long, Deputy County Attorney
Erin C. Ward, Assistant County Attorney


Attachment 1

– RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS –
Draft of October 28, 2010
At a regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia,
held in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center at
12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, Virginia, on Tuesday, November 16,
2010, at which a quorum was present and voting, the following resolution was adopted
in public session.

Whereas, Fairfax County, Virginia, is required to consider reapportionment
every ten years; and

Whereas, the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to soon release the
2010 Census that will indicate that there have been sufficient population changes
within Fairfax County, Virginia, to warrant a reapportionment of the Board of
Supervisors of the County; and

Whereas, the Board of Supervisors has the power to apportion the election
districts of the governing body in accordance with federal and state laws; now
therefore it be,

Resolved that the Board of Supervisors supports and adopts the following;

Goal

The goal for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is to reapportion the
governing body of the County during calendar year 2011. As part of that process, the
Board will consider the existing election districts for the members of the Board and
proposed revisions to those districts. That process will be completed and approved in
accordance with federal and state law.

Criteria

1. The governing body of the County must be composed of one elected
at-large chairman and a fixed number of members who are elected from singlemember
districts.
(219)

2. The Board will adopt election districts composed of contiguous and
compact territory and which shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is
practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.

3. The Board will adopt election districts with clearly observable
boundaries, as Virginia law defines that term.

4. The Board will comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as
amended.

Policies

1. The Board will consider plans that maintain nine election districts as well
as any other plans that propose a lawful number of election districts.

2. The Board will not consider election district proposals which would result
in a maximum population deviation between election districts that is ten percent or
greater.

3. The Board will consider existing geographical and political boundaries,
which shall include, but not be limited to, the utilization of incorporated town
boundaries.

4. The Board will consider established communities of interest that shall
include, but not be limited to, geographic areas with similar characteristics such as
ethnic, social, and cultural interests. Present and planned use of land and public
facilities are relevant to defining communities of interest.

5. The Board will consider existing districts and incumbent representation
on local public bodies that may be affected by reapportionment.

6. The Board encourages plans that are based on existing voting precinct
boundaries, and where changes are necessary, precincts shall be divided along
Census block boundaries.

7. The Board encourages interested persons to submit reapportionment
plans to the County. Proponents of any plan shall submit appropriate maps of
proposed election districts and statistical summaries and analyses. The statistical
analyses shall show the population deviation between election districts and any
retrogressive effect on racial or language minority groups.
(220)

8. The Board encourages interested persons to submit proposals for
amending or revising any reapportionment plan that has been submitted to the County.
Proponents of any such amendment or revision shall submit appropriate maps
showing the proposed changes and statistical summaries and analyses. The
statistical analyses shall show the population deviation between election districts and any retrogressive effect on racial or language minority groups.

9. Notwithstanding Policies 7 and 8 above, the Board encourages public
comments or recommendations from interested persons on any plan or change to plan
that has been submitted.

10. All of the foregoing criteria shall be considered in the reapportionment
process, but population equality among districts and compliance with federal and state constitutional requirements and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, shall be given priority in the event of conflict among the criteria.

GIVEN under my hand this day of November 2010.
___________________________
Nancy Vehrs
Clerk to the Board of Supervisors
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