NoVA Residents Express Need for Nonpartisan Redistricting at Public Hearing
A public hearing on redistricting recently brought out strong views from Fairfax County residents
The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee recently held a meeting to collect public input on the Virginia Senate redistricting that is completed after each census. Many in attendance agreed Virginia's House and Senate should have a nonpartisan committee that decides the boundaries during redistricting.
Several senators, including Janet Howell, Steve Martin, Harry Blevins and Chap Petersen of the Privileges and Elections Committee were in attendance at the Nov. 4 meeting in Herndon. Howell, the chair of the committee, said that preliminary census numbers indicate that Northern Virginia will gain at least one senate seat, with another area in Virginia losing one.
Residents from various parts of Fairfax County and the surrounding areas voiced their concerns on how redistricting will affect their area.
Vienna Councilwoman Edythe Frankel Kelleher spoke on behalf of the Town of Vienna. She said the town is a cohesive community. "This cohesiveness and community feeling is facilitated by the fact that one senator and one delegate represent the entire town," she said. She said their request is that Vienna remains undivided.
Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis had a similar request. He said the topic hasn't been discussed among the town's entire council but it would be preferable if the entire Town of Herndon remained in one district.
Olga Hernandez, of the League of Women Voters, said the group believes a nonpartisan committee should be making the decision on redistricting. "Incumbents should be chosen at the ballot box," she said. She said they should not be chosen by setting boundaries for districts.
Lester Gabriel said the process should be done in a way that is good for the citizens and not for the preservation of current elected officials. He said things that should be considered are equal population among districts and compact, contiguous districts. He said creating "safe" districts for one or both major parties is not acceptable.
Reston resident Marion Stillson echoed what those who spoke before her said. She said the way redistricting is done should keep the faith of the public interests.
Area resident Jay Walker said he believes that since the last census Virginia has become more politically competitive and successful economically. He said he doesn't think that's a coincidence. He said he hopes they don't see a backward looking approach going into redistricting.
Sarah Fitzgerald said in recent General Assembly sessions many groups have come forward in support of a bipartisan citizens commission to prepare redistricting. She said she feels it's good for Virginia from a political and economic standpoint and welcomes those from the Tea Party who recognize that redistricting is one of the best ways to return the government to the people.
Howell said for the past three years the Virginia Senate has passed nonpartisan redistricting bills, with support from Democrats and Republicans. She said the bills were always defeated in the House of Delegates and never moved forward, so this year's redistricting will not be nonpartisan.
Martin said he feels lines should not be drawn in a way to protect incumbent representatives. He said it has helped him win his district in the past, but he feels voters should control who represents them, and the representatives shouldn't be choosing their voters.
Additional public hearings will be held later on in the process, and all comments and information collected will be recorded and posted to the Senate legislative information system website.
Residents with comments or questions can call 804-698-7450, or visit http://dlsgis.state.va.us./. Information and presentations are included on the website, along with a link to send e-mail.