Monday, March 21, 2011

Council to approve 9 precincts due to 2010 census

"We’ll be the first to submit to the Justice Department [under 1965 Voting Rights Act].” – Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta

Charlottesville, Va. – City Council will likely approve a 9-precinct redistricting at their Apr. 4 regular meeting. All 5 at-large councilors indicated support for the change. Tonight was the 1st of 2 readings. A motion and a second continued the agenda item. The public now has 2 weeks to contact Council members to influence the final decision.

The current 8-precinct configuration was adopted 1963 with the annexation of Barracks Road and other areas. At that time the 4 wards were divided into a small and a large precinct. Following a Dec. 1920 referendum, all city elections became at-large. The wards and precincts ceased being election districts when city elections became at-large, 51% choose all the councilors.

There is a great deal of history swirling around city elections and precincts. The boundaries changed with each annexation across two centuries. In just the last decade, a commission on Council representation and commission on School Board elections were ignored by Council. Other requests from the Voter Registrar and Board of Elections were also ignored.

Prior to that, there was a movement to switch back to district-based representation within the city in the early 1980s at a time when discontent was high following the 1970s urban renewal of what’s now called the Warehouse District / South Downtown. Efforts to reform the Redevelopment and Housing Authority failed in 1977.

The current changes are required by the Code of Virginia Section 24.2-307. “At the time any precinct is established, it shall have no more than 5,000 registered voters. The general registrar shall notify the governing body whenever the number of voters who voted in a precinct in an election for President of the United States exceeds 4,000. Within six months of receiving the notice, the governing body shall proceed to revise the precinct boundaries, and any newly established or redrawn precinct shall have no more than 5,000 registered voters.”

The ordinance would amend Sections 9-1 of Article I, and 9-26 through 9-30 of Article II, of Chapter 9 of the Charlottesville City Code, 1990. After 90 years, only now is Sec. 9-26 changed from “election districts or precincts” to “election precincts.” They are voting precincts, not election precincts, because no one is elected from the precinct, as explained by the city attorney during the School Board election commission. Voting precincts are subject to less regulation than election precincts.

Wards 1, 2 and 4 would continue to have 2 precincts. Ward 3 would have 3 precincts: Tonsler, Buford, and Johnson. All the boundaries would be redrawn for balance. Alumni Hall precinct would become contiguous whereas it’s now split by the UVA campus, which has remained in the county despite city annexations.

Charlottesville is subject to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, enacted by Congress to single out certain communities for review by the US Department of Justice.

Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta said all the growth has occurred on the southern half of town where a new precinct is created. She said, “We are the first to be ahead of everybody else, significantly ahead of any other municipality…We’ll be the first to submit to the Justice Department.”

Given all the community time and energy spent in recent years on elections and precincts, nothing less would be expected.

9 Members of the Redistricting advisory committee

Perri Rush Brown – Chief Election Officer, Recreation Precinct
Blake Caravati – Former Mayor, City Council
Robert P. Hodous – Member, Charlottesville Electoral Board, Election Officer
Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, Ph.D – President, League of Women Voters
Charles Kromkowski, Ph.D – UVA Research Associate Professor, Politics Department
Frederick Schneider – AIA, Senior Voting Machine Technician
Richard Sincere – Chair, Charlottesville Electoral Board
Thomas Vandever – Chair Charlottesville Democratic Party

Video of the Mar. 21, 2011 City Council Meeting. Includes in the first few minutes, the giant Polyp running around the chamber for Colo-rectal Cancer Awareness. Because of thunderstorms this evening, this reporter watched approx. 7:00 to 7:15 and 8:30 to 9 p.m. when the meeting was adjourned. The city redistricting was the final agenda item.

48-page Council Agenda with background material Mar. 21, 2011.

Previous Blair’s Blog Council Report.

City to revisit election precincts, Sep. 23, 2008. Includes timeline.

The first 3 images are from tonight's report. The final 3 images are from the 2006 School Board Election commission with the proposed 4- and 7-precinct models and the ward-precinct layout


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