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Albemarle County may speed up its local redistricting process with opportunity for public input in early March

A man votes at Albemarle County's Registrar office

Albemarle County’s local redistricting process is underway, so local districts and polling precincts could be somewhat altered by the spring — just in time for primary elections. 

Like the state’s General Assembly and Congressional districts, localities must redraw their maps every decade when new U.S. Census data is collected. While Charlottesville elects its City Council and School Board to at-large districts, Albemarle County elects its Board of Supervisors and School Board members to represent local districts within the county. 

The redistricting process was originally slated to conclude in May, but staff now recommends that the Board of Supervisors adopt an accelerated timeline at their Wednesday meeting. 

The proposed new timeline would entail a public hearing on March 2 and adoption of new districts by March 23. 

This is because the pressure is on to be prepared for primary elections this summer, County Registrar Jake Washburne explained. The county will need time to prepare any new polling precincts and notify voters of changes before the June elections.

That process is already more than a year behind. First, the required Census data was delayed by the pandemic. Then the state’s redistricting commission failed to agree on new maps, so Virginia’s Supreme Court had to step in to draw them. Those maps were approved at the end of 2021.

On top of that, the former chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party, Paul Goldman, is trying to force the state to redo last year’s House of Delegate elections. Though the terms for Virginia’s 100 delegates started this January, they were each elected last fall on maps from the previous decade — not the new maps that take effect this year. 

Goldman sued the State Board of Election in federal court in July. Pending the outcome of the suit, it’s still unclear whether or not those elections will happen.

“If we do have a new one this year we’ve got to get our own redistricting done lickity split because there will be a primary for it,” Washburne said.

The county, meanwhile, will need to have its districts and precinct polling locations finalized in time for the Congressional primaries this June. Should the state’s House of Delegates need to run again, then they would also have primaries in June. 

There won’t be local races this year, but local governments will administer polling for those other elections. 

If the Board accepts the accelerated timeline, Donna Price, its chair, said the county will instruct its public relations staff to notify constituents of the process. 

“There have definitely been some communications about the time pressures,” she said. “It’s really driving everyone’s interest between the Electoral Board and the Board of Supervisors.”

While “not engaging too hastily” in decision-making, she expects the county will handle its redistricting process as “expeditiously as possible.”

To study up before Wednesday’s Board meeting, the proposed maps can be found here. 

Explanation of the proposed changes can be found here. 

Other related materials can be found here.