Local voting districts will change

Courtesy of Rappahannock County and the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission.

Several hundred citizens will have a different Rappahannock County supervisor after this summer. The 2010 Census revealed shifts in population, requiring that district boundaries change to equalize local government representation.

“This is not an optional thing,” said John McCarthy, the county administrator.

The objective is to create districts coming close to containing the ideal population of 1,475 persons. Variance within 5 percent is permitted by law.

Two plans developed by Patrick Mauney of the Rapidan-Rappahannock Regional Commission provide the supervisors a place to begin rearranging district boundaries. One impacts the least number (468) of people. The focus of the other is to approach equalizing the number of people in each district. In this design, 630 people would transfer to a new district.

“Both [plans] move a fair number of people. Both do well at following natural boundaries,”said McCarthy, who was involved in the 1990 and 2000 redistricting. Mauney, he said, tried to use roads and named waterways.

The board of supervisors will create its concept of the new districts. “It will be a fairly cut-and-dried, simple process,” said Chris Parrish, supervisor for the Stonewall-Hawthorne District.

After growing in population since World War II, Stonewall-Hawthorne thinned out in the past decade. However, with 1,603 people, it still has the largest population of the five districts. Parrish expects it will lose territory. The Jackson District continues its trend of shrinking in numbers of residents since World War II.

Following adoption of a redistricting plan by the board, the public will have an opportunity to provide input. The public is welcome at the informal work session at 5 Thursday (March 24) at the courthouse. In the event that a jury trial continues until then, the meeting will move to the Extension Office.

McCarthy remembers that in 2000, more people expressed opinions after the districts were redrawn rather than when invited to the public hearing. Jackson District Supervisor Ronald Frazier and McCarthy anticipate that some voters will be unhappy in having to travel to a new precinct. Parrish said that he doesn’t want someone who has been voting in the same place all their life to have to move.

The new boundaries will be effective immediately after the board approves a new map. The first election according to redrawn districts will occur next November.

Redrawing Rappahannock districts will cost the county about $5,000. Paying the regional commission for assistance and advertising the public hearing will consume about $3,000. The Registrar’s budget includes $2,000 to print new voter cards. If there is controversy, costs might increase.

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By some folks' standards, Alisa Booze Troetschel is a newcomer. She moved to northwest Virginia two years ago after completing graduate studies at the Missouri School of Journalism. She has photographed, written and edited for local, regional and national magazines and newspapers, while delighting in the beauty surrounding her new home.