Public hearing set for IW redistricting plan

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Nov. 18 on its plan for redrawing the county’s voting districts based on 2020 census data.

The open session portion of the meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

On Oct. 21, the board decided by consensus to select the map that had been its redistricting task force’s top choice as the one to advertise for the public hearing. That map, proposed by task force member Thomas Finderson, extends the county’s Hardy District — designated “D3” — into the Benn’s Grant area and part of Carrollton and places a stretch of Grace Street that had moved to Hardy in 2011 back into the Smithfield District.

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It also extends the Windsor District — designated “D2” — alongside the county’s border with the city of Suffolk, even farther into Carrollton than the district currently extends.

Per federal and state constitutional requirements, the redrawn districts must be more or less equal in population, be contiguous, compact and not discriminate based on race. The least-populated district is allowed to deviate up to 5% from the most populated district, meaning each can go up to 2.5% above or below the ideal 7,759 residents per district based on a total population of 38,795.

Anything beyond that may be subject to challenge — though deviations of up to 10% may be permitted, according to Andrew McRoberts, the county’s outside legal counsel for the redistricting process.

Per the federal Voting Rights Act, there must also be at least one minority-majority district based on the ratio of white residents to people of color and whether voters consistently vote to defeat minority candidates. The current Hardy District had a 53% minority population when the county last redistricted in 2011 but based on the latest census data, the minority population of Hardy has decreased to 45.6%. The map that will be advertised achieves a 49.54% minority population in the proposed Hardy District, which increases to just over 50% when counting only those of voting age.

The board considered two other maps when choosing which to advertise for the public hearing. One, which county staff had designated Map 1A during the redistricting task force meetings, proposed a less compact Hardy District and another, proposed by task force chairman Caleb Kitchen, proposed extending the Newport District — designated “D4” — across the entirety of the county’s James River border. The Kitchen map would have achieved a slightly higher percentage of minority Hardy District residents of voting age.

The board plans to meet jointly with the task force members on Nov. 22 following the hearing to discuss possible changes to the advertised map based on input from residents, which will also begin at 6 p.m.