Fairvote.org is currently undergoing an upgrade, and some features may not be working as usual. We apologize for any inconvenience, and expect to be back at full capacity soon.

Virginia Congressional Redistricting: A Better Method

by Matt Morris // Published April 4, 2011
VAplan4

Last week, the winning submissions were announced for the Virginia Redistricting Competition. Universities across Virginia participated, resulting in various plans that re-drew congressional district lines in order to reflect the 2010 census data. Most plans attempted to create more competitive districts, as well as create at least one district where racial minorities are well-positioned to elect a representative. While the maps from the competition are an improvement upon current Virginia congressional district boundaries, the lines that have been drawn result in awkwardly constructed districts, some being squeezed or manipulated to create fairer representation. They also leave several districts that are unlikely to be competitive, make it quite possibly the overall partisan representation won’t reflect the balanced nature of the state and limit the number of African Americans in a good position to elect candidates of choice.

There is an alternative, and it gives rise to equal representation without contorting districts and grouping disparate communities – proportional voting though multi-member "super districts." Instead of having only one seat per district, there will multiple seats in a larger district, allowing for minorities (racial, political, etc) to also have representation where they live. Winning a seat doesn’t take 50% plus one – rather, it takes a “proportional” share of seats being elected, which is just over 25% in a district with three representatives, just over 20% in a district with four representations and about 17% in a district with five representatives.To convey this, I took the districts set up by individual teams in the redistricting competition and combined them to create "super districts."

Here are my plans.

UVA Team 1 (Commission)

 

 

 

District

Population

Compactness

Partisan

Black VAP

Hispanic VAP

1

727,355

58.05%

53.06%

35.15%

3.80%

2

727,368

38.44%

68.97%

51.03%

5.01%

3

727,376

54.93%

47.57%

23.46%

5.45%

4

727,363

50.68%

41.16%

18.18%

4.61%

5

727,373

50.65%

45.15%

16.80%

4.11%

6

727,360

52.60%

39.20%

6.87%

4.97%

7

727,361

47.63%

49.25%

15.58%

16.79%

8

727,378

63.71%

57.34%

6.33%

12.33%

9

727,356

53.93%

66.74%

14.61%

16.34%

10

727,370

51.18%

44.06%

19.44%

2.15%

11

727,364

48.32%

41.73%

5.86%

1.66%

 

 

 

 Super Districts

 

Districts

Threshold to win seat

Black VAP*

Pop. per seat

Partisanship*
(Democratic)

2, 5, 10, 11

20% + 1

23.28%

          727,369

49.98%

1, 3, 4, 6

20% + 1

20.92%

          727,364

45.25%

7, 8, 9

25% +1

12.17%

          727,365

57.78%


* Average percentages from single member districts

With this 3-4-4 plan, I was able to make two congressional seats in which the black voting age population is over the threshold to win a seat, and have the same opportunities as in a minority-majority district.. These three super districts result in six Democratic-leaning seats and five Republican-leaning seats, but at least of the Democratic-leaning seats well within reach for Republicans.

 

 

W&M Undergrad Team (Commission)

 

 

District

Population

Compactness


Partisanship
(Democratic)

Black VAP

Hispanic VAP

1

724,435

51.39%

44.60%

21.43%

5.33%

2

729,349

53.43%

44.46%

20.88%

4.67%

3

725,236

41.08%

67.65%

50.09%

4.93%

4

727,526

59.78%

55.53%

32.57%

5.68%

5

728,631

50.71%

44.83%

26.86%

2.28%

6

725,494

38.87%

39.78%

8.43%

4.17%

7

729,836

48.03%

42.79%

14.79%

3.61%

8

726,998

66.99%

68.58%

13.18%

17.29%

9

728,699

41.89%

42.51%

3.77%

1.49%

10

729,054

55.45%

55.34%

7.56%

11.25%

11

725,766

49.01%

48.37%

14.18%

16.47%


 

 

 

 Super Districts

 

Districts

Threshold

Black VAP*

Pop per seat

Partisanship*
(Democratic)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

17%

30.37%

          727,035

51.41%

6, 7, 9

25%

9.00%

          728,010

41.69%

8, 10, 11

25%

11.64%

          727,273

57.43%

* Average percentages from single member districts


This super district plan creates three districts of five, three and three seats. The super district that contains seats 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 would put African Americans close the position to being able to elect two seats and they at least would be influential voters in the other two districts that each will elect three seats with a victory threshold just over 25%. Four seats would be solidly Democratic, and another 4 would be solidly Republican. One seat would lean to each party and the third (in the five-seat district) would be wide open.

If one of the focuses of redistricting is to more fairly represent racial minorities, then proportional voting in multi-member districts accomplishes this task in more ways than one and improves upon the current single-member district , winner-take-all system.

Virginia's current congressional distribution overwhelmingly favors Republicans, with 8 Republicans to 3 Democrats. Given its status as a swing state (electing Democratic president and senators, then a Republican governor), Virginia's representation should seemingly be more even in terms of congressional seats. The plans created for the Virginia Redistricting Competition addressed these concerns, and came up with more competitive districts for both parties to have an opportunity to win. The same is accomplished with multi-member districts, with emphasis on representing minority opinion, whether it’s Democratic or Republican.

Lastly, I made these congressional plans within the framework of the Virginia Redistricting Competition maps, but if I were to draw up super-district boundaries independently, I would be able to get the most out of a district, in terms of racial, political, and local representation, leading to an increased possibility of fairer representation for every person in Virginia.