Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of districts that elect representatives who serve specific geographical areas. Redistricting is required every 10 years following the United States decennial census and is the responsibility of state and local governments. Redistricting is governed by Federal and State constitutional and statutory laws. In Virginia, redistricting is required for localities that elect candidates from a district or ward system. The purpose of decennial redistricting is to equalize, as nearly as practical, representation in the election districts on the basis of population.
The 2020 Census results show that Newport News increased in population since the 2010 Census, from 180,719 people to 186,247 people. This is an increase of about 3.1% or 5,528 people. Because Newport News elects City Council and School Board candidates by district, the City is required to undergo redistricting following every decennial census. Further, and because the Newport News population increased, each election district needs to be balanced to ensure equal representation. In this regard, the City Council makes the final decision on how district boundaries are drawn, with the School Board being informed of the process.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Census was delayed which also delayed redistricting schedules. In the Commonwealth, Virginians voted for a Redistricting Commission to redraw legislative boundaries. The Redistricting Commission did not reach a consensus on state redistricting maps; as a result, the Virginia Supreme Court selected “special masters” to draw the state redistricting maps. The final state redistricting maps were completed and approved by the Court at the end of December 2021.
Once the state completed redistricting, localities could begin local redistricting if applicable. Newport News began its redistricting process in January 2022.
What are the Legal Requirements for Local Redistricting?
- Districts may not have split precincts. This is why localities wait to begin redistricting until the state concludes its efforts.
- Districts must be compact in shape and contiguous in geographic area.
- Voting district population must be substantially equal in apportionment. For example, for a population of 186,000 people there would be approximately 62,000 people per district.
- Redistricting must use census blocks or higher for determining population.
- Districts are to be drawn based on clearly observable boundaries, ex: natural waterways, highways, etc.
Approved Redistricting Plan
Note: The Redistricting Plan (map and ordinance) was adopted by City Council on March 22, 2022. The Plan was approved by the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia on April 11, 2022.
Census blocks: Census blocks, the smallest geographic area for which the Bureau of the Census collects and tabulates decennial census data, are formed by streets, roads, railroads, streams and other bodies of water, other visible physical and cultural features, and the legal boundaries shown on Census Bureau maps (census.gov).
Split Precincts: Voters in the same precinct, voting for different Congressional, State, City Council and/or School Board candidates.
For more Information please email Toluwalase "Tolu" Ibikunle, AICP, Senior Planner or call 757-926-8761.