The next time county supervisors and School Board members run for office, it will be in districts that rebalance the population counts in each following another decade of significant growth. Tuesday was the last day for public submissions to help county supervisors redraw the local electoral map.
As part of the work to come up with new maps, the county solicited proposals from the public for those new maps, accepting submissions online through Nov. 30. And with that, unlike the state redistricting process, the county redistricting process so far remains on schedule.
In December, county staff members will review the submitted maps, evaluating them against the criteria set down by state law and the county supervisor, who have said they have no interest in gerrymandering or politicking with the new map. Supervisors will see those new maps and county staff analysis in January, expected to be Jan. 18, and discuss them again in February.
The online map creator also will not be the public’s last chance to offer input on the next Loudoun electoral map. Supervisors are scheduled to vote in March on which map or maps to send to a public hearing in May.
After supervisors vote on a new electoral map, the schedule is out of their hands again—by May, it will go to the Attorney General’s Office for review. The county hopes to send out new voter cards reflecting the new districts in September.
One thing about the new districts is already decided: there will once again be eight districts and one at-large seat on both boards.
COLT Pitches New Map
One proposal for a new electoral map has already gone public.
On Tuesday evening, the Coalition of Loudoun Towns sent county supervisors its proposal for Loudoun’s next electoral map—a map that looks in many ways like the old one.
COLT, a group of Loudoun’s seven town mayors, joined those voices pushing to keep two western Loudoun districts despite the growing population disparity between suburban east and rural west. All of Loudoun’s towns, with the possible exception of Leesburg, are considered part of Loudoun’s rural area. And in fact, COLT’s plan is specific only on western districts—the eastern districts are depicted in that plan “for example only.”
COLT accomplished two western districts by building on some of the same features that shape the Catoctin and Blue Ridge districts today. One large western district, similar to today’s Blue Ridge District, has been extended both north and east, now encompassing both Neersville in far northwestern Loudoun, and South Riding in far southeastern Loudoun. The other, similar to today’s Catoctin District, has absorbed Purcellville from the Blue Ridge District, wraps around Leesburg into the River Creek neighborhood as it does today, and reaches further eastward to the intersection of Ryan Road and Northstar Boulevard. Leesburg would still have its own district, with a new border that follows town limits more closely than today.
That proposal drew mixed reactions from supervisors seeing the map for the first time Tuesday evening.
“My goal is to maintain two western Loudoun Supervisors and COLT’s plan does that, so I’ll be strongly considering it once all public submissions have been received and presented to the Board,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
“This map is literally an insult to all the work that this board has done to not gerrymander, to put communities of interest in one district, and to make sure that we have someone who lives in the west,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
Randall said she would not support that proposal, objecting to the proposed western districts’ into suburban areas.
“This is the most important thing I can say—this map does not require any supervisor to live in western Loudoun County, just like the current map,” Randall said. “… In this map you could have every single supervisor live in the east. The point of a western district is, you want someone who understands western Loudoun County because they live there.”
In previous conversations, one thing on which county supervisors have broadly agreed is that the current map is a non-starter, and not just because of population disparities among districts. They, also, have pointed to the disparate communities brought together in that map.
COLT members, joined by the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition Executive Committee, which offered support for the COLT proposal, maintain that western Loudoun needs two seats on the county board to adequately represent its interest and sprawling territory.
“The idea was, the west has its very, very unique challenges opposed to the east, and some of those challenges are just simple matters of geography—it’s 200,000 acres,” said Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton.
He also pointed to the needs of people living in towns and villages.
“People in the towns get taxed twice. They get county taxes and they get town taxes. So, they need that broader voice across the county,” Littleton said. “And again, Middleburg to Lovettsville is about an hour drive. It’s really a challenge for one supervisor with two to three staff people to manage that.”
And he said he’s not worried about electing a western supervisor who doesn’t live in the rural west.
“Sure, that’s a possibility, but with 60-65% of the population in the two districts that we have somewhere in the rural western part of the county, they have to be able to win, too,” Littleton said, adding that even a supervisor who lives in east representing the west would be responsible for representing all their constituents.
And despite differences on the COLT proposal, Randall, too, has said she will try to draw two western Loudoun districts again.