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Virginia Politics
Posted at 03:07 PM ET, 04/13/2011

Report: New legislative districts would be worse than the old ones

An independent analysis of the new state legislative district boundaries adopted this week by the General Assembly and delivered to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) says that the new districts are less compact and divide more communities than the state’s current districts.

“In short, the maps presented to the Governor by the General Assembly would make a bad situation worse for the coming decade,” writes Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

The study was conducted by Kidd and Dustin Cable of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Both served as advisers to McDonnell’s bipartisan redistricting advisory commission, but the analysis was conducted independent of the commission.

Still, the analysis is clearly designed to show that model maps proposed by the commission and other boundaries drawn by students as part of a college competition are superior to ones drawn by the General Assembly.

The report is part of a broad effort to urge the adoption of a non-partisan process to redistrict the state every 10 years in response to population shifts revealed by the census.

Judy Wason, for whom the center is named, has been a leading proponent of non-partisan redistricting and argues that self-interested elected leaders use redistricting to protect incumbents and enhance partisan advantage.

The study found that senate districts would divide 135 cities and towns, compared to 110 divided under current maps. House of Delegates districts would increase the number of split counties and cities from 194 to 198.

Cable also calculated compactness of districts, using a measure in which a perfect circle would be considered 100 percent compact. He found that the Senate proposal would drop the compactness of districts from an average of 48 percent to 38 percent. The House map would also drop average compactness, but by a lesser amount--from nearly 50 percent to about 48 percent.

Maps proposed by the commission and by students were both more compact and divided fewer communities than the General Assembly’s proposal.

The analysis comes as McDonnell weighs whether to sign, veto or amend the General Assembly’s plan.

The analysis suggests that some of those involved with the commission’s efforts hope McDonnell will, indeed, choose to intervene.

“If the districts in [the bill] are not amended and improved, the 2011 redistricting process will mark a decade of decline for commonsense standards of representation in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate,” the report concludes.

By  |  03:07 PM ET, 04/13/2011

 
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