Legislative Report - Redistricting - 6/11/2011

As happens every 10 years following the United States Census, legislative districts are being reviewed and modified as needed to reflect the principle of “one man, one vote”.  This concept means that each legislator represents approximately the same number of people.  A Legislative Apportionment Board consisting of two Democrats, two Republicans, two Progressives and a chair have been appointed by the Governor to review the current district map and modify it based on changes in population. 

The 2010 Census counted 625,741 people living in Vermont, and since there are 150 legislators in the Vermont House, this means the “ideal” House district would have 4172 residents.  Moreover, each district should conform to three standards to the extent possible:
 (1) preservation of existing political subdivision lines;
 (2) recognition and maintenance of patterns of geography, social interaction, trade, political ties and common interests; and
 (3) use of compact and contiguous territory.
Of course, it is pretty unlikely that any district would have exactly 4172 residents, so Vermont law also allows some deviation from this number.  A deviation of up to 10% is generally considered acceptable.  Also, boundaries can be drawn so that a House district can have two legislators representing approximately 8344 residents.  No district can have more than two legislators, however.

The current reapportionment board considered two methods of district modification.  One was to keep the current districts and modify the boundaries as necessary to add or subtract residents.  The other was to create 150 single-member districts conforming as much as possible to the legal criteria.  The latter approach won out on a vote of 4 to 3.

The final word is not in, however, since the plan has to be reviewed by local Boards of Civil Authority of the municipalities that have boundary changes, and the BCAs can recommend changes to the proposal.  Finally, the Vermont legislature can change the district map before it is voted into law.  It is the latter step that has political implications since several current 2-member districts are represented by legislators that live within the same, new, single-member district, in which case one would lose his or her seat in the next election.

So, what are the implications for Charlotte and Hinesburg?  It turns out that there would be very little change.  The Chittenden 1-1 district consists solely of Hinesburg minus 2 small segments that together with the entire town of Charlotte make up Chittenden 1-2, which I represent.  Based on the plan approved by the Reapportionment Board, Charlotte would become its own district and Hinesburg would reabsorb the segments that were part of 1-2.  Charlotte’s population of 3754 residents would deviate from the ideal district by almost exactly 10%.  Hinesburg’s population of 4396 would deviate from the ideal by about 5%.  Regardless of any subsequent changes to the redistricting map, these two districts would probably remain as proposed pending the approval of the Boards of Civil Authority of both towns and the legislature.

On another note, on Tuesday, June 21st, the Republican and Democratic Town Committees of Shelburne will host a forum with Vermont House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche (D) and Vermont House Minority Leader Donald Turner (R), who will each present their synopses of the last legislative session and their visions for the next session.  The forum starts at at the Shelburne Town Offices and is open to the public.