Members of the Prince William Human Rights Commission are requesting that Prince William supervisors redraw a proposed magisterial district boundary on the county's redistricting maps that they claim splits a minority-majority community in the county’s eastern end into two.
The commission sent a letter to supervisors Friday, requesting that they reconsider splitting the River Oaks precinct currently in Woodbridge into two separate magisterial districts — Woodbridge and Dumfries. Doing so, the commission states, would dilute the voice of the minority residents who make up 77 percent of the River Oaks community.
Supervisors are scheduled to adopt a redistricting plan April 18 at 7:30 p.m. Supervisors are considering three maps — two that keep seven magisterial districts and one that adds an eighth. County staff originally proposed two maps, however after public feedback, drafted an additional seven-district map that kept certain neighborhoods of interest from being divided.
“Splitting the River Oaks precinct is contrary to the established redistricting criteria approved by the Board of County Supervisors, one of which is to preserve communities of interest like River Oaks,” Woodbridge Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D) said in an e-mail he sent to constituents Saturday, urging them to attend Monday's meeting. “I strongly believe that the entire River Oaks community should remain within the Woodbridge district where your community has been located since its inception.”
Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said Monday afternoon that county officials have spoken with the human rights commission and the NAACP and have come up with a map that will address their concerns and keep River Oaks all in Woodbridge.
Redistricting happens every 10 years to accommodate population changes based on the census. Following state and federal guidelines, county staff had to redraw the boundaries of the magisterial districts to evenly redistribute Prince William’s roughly 400,000 residents. Although the demographic makeup of each district doesn’t have to be the same, county officials said they can’t discriminate when drawing district boundaries.
Human rights commission members reviewed all the county’s redistricting maps and said in their letter that they have no concerns with the eight-district map and the second seven-district map addresses all their concerns, except for River Oaks.
The letter also commends the board for the “transparency and fairness” that was exerted during the redistricting process.The commission also found that there was “no intent to disenfranchise” any group on the basis of race, color or religion during the process, the letter states.
The human rights commission is not the first group to make a redistricting request to the board. Virginia New Majority — a civil rights group in the Commonwealth — alleges that the county’s proposed redistricting maps are gerrymandered to minimize the number of minorities in each local election district. The group has proposed two alternative maps and is scheduled to attend Monday’s meeting.