Tuesday, September 23, 2008

City to revisit election precincts

Charlottesville, Va.—“Virginia law requires that a precinct be realigned if more than 4,000 voters cast ballots on Election Day. Currently, three of Charlottesville’s eight precincts—Venable, Recreation, and Jefferson Park—have surpassed 4,000 registered voters, something unprecedented in the city’s history.

“’We’re expecting about an 80 percent turnout,’ said Sheri Iachetta, Charlottesville’s voter registrar”(“City might have to redo precincts: High registration makes post-Nov. 4 adjustments increasingly probable” by Rachana Dixit, Sep. 22, 2008, The Daily Progress).

According to the article, a simple statute may do what two commissions and the voter registrar’s office have been unable to do in recent years: redraw precinct boundaries to balance resources and population shifts within the city. The total population has remained unchanged for four decades.

In 1963, each of the four wards was divided into a large precinct and a small precinct. The small precincts were mostly annexed in the 20th century. The three most populous precincts can outvote the other five.

Any changes must be made between Nov. 4 and Jan. 31. Because of the next census, no changes can be made between Feb. 1, 2009 and May 15, 2011.

Given the recent activity on this issue, the Office of the Voter Registrar likely has several proposals ready to go. This time around, 45 years later, we seem as prepared as we can be.


1762—Town of Charlottesville established.

1888—Charlottesville incorporates as city.

1920—Referendum to switch from bicameral 12-member system modeled after the federal legislature to current city-manager system modeled after corporate governing boards. At-large elections begin several years later.

1963—Four wards are divided into eight precincts with annexation of Barracks Road Shopping Center.

May 2000—Democratic councilors Maurice Cox, Meredith Richards, Kevin Lynch elected, support elected mayor.

Mar. 23, 2004--"Public talks about ward system but not sure it's the fix" at Tonsler Park.

April 5, 2004—Ward/Mayor study commissioned by Council in 3-1-1 vote: Rob Schilling, Meredith Richards, Maurice Cox in favor, Blake Caravati against, Kevin Lynch abstain. Only Lynch survives the May 2004 election

Aug. 30, 2004, “Interest in mayor system ignored”, Letter in The Daily Progress.

Jan. 3, 2005—Sean O'BRIEN, Council Elections Task Force chairman delivers report to Council and takes questions from Councilors.

Nov. 8, 2005—Elected School Board referendum.

Feb. 21, 2006—8-member commission to study school board elections.

May, 19, 2006, “Task forces studies how to elect school board”.

Jun. 1, 2006, “Should school board be at-large? Daily Progress says yes”. Includes “Interest in mayor system ignored,” August 30 2004, Letter in The Daily Progress, criticizing editorial ”City system not broken,” Aug 19 2004.

“School board study: Only wards can guarantee diversity”, Aug. 8, 2006.

“School board to remain at-large”, Oct. 3, 2006. The final Council vote.

“Council may create new commission to update precinct boundaries after ignoring 2 commissions in 2 years”, Jan. 17, 2007. 4th time in just over 2 years the Council has been asked to modernize its antiquated precincts.

“City might have to redo precincts: High registration makes post-Nov. 4 adjustments increasingly probable” by Rachana Dixit, Sep. 22, 2008, The Daily Progress.

4 Precinct Proposal

7 Precinct Model

Current Ward-Precinct Layout

Larger Precinct Map showing most councilors from populous precincts on north side of town


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