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Chesterfield On Point

Posted on: April 4, 2022

Chesterfield submits additional redistricting information to Virginia's attorney general

Approved Redistricting Map

Approved Redistricting MapApproved County Redistricting Map

Chesterfield has submitted additional information to the Virginia Attorney General’s Office regarding the countywide redistricting plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last November.

The board adopted a redistricting plan to redraw the county’s magisterial district boundaries and balance the population based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census. Under the law, the plan cannot take effect without a certification of no objection from the attorney general.   

Accordingly, Chesterfield submitted a request to the Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 28, 2021, for a certification of no objection. The county included detailed information in its request, including a countywide map, an enacted ordinance and demographic information for each of its districts. 

On Jan. 14, Mona H. Siddiqui, then a senior assistant attorney general under outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring, sent the county a letter stating that she did not agree with its redistricting plan.

The following day, Jason Miyares was sworn in as Virginia’s new attorney general.

Less than a week later, on Jan. 21, Chesterfield asked Attorney General Miyares to review Siddiqui’s letter because none of the grounds she asserted in her letter are valid bases for objecting to the county’s proposal under the law, and because the county’s proposal complies with all legal requirements for redistricting. 

The Attorney General’s Office is currently reviewing the county’s request, and the county recently responded to written questions from the office about its redistricting plan.

State law requires Chesterfield and all other localities to redraw the boundaries of their magisterial districts every 10 years in conjunction with the release of updated U.S. Census data. The purpose is to ensure the districts have as close to the same number of residents as possible; maximum deviation between each district should be less than 5%.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Chesterfield’s population grew by 15% over the past decade, from about 315,000 to more than 365,000. The Matoaca District saw by far the largest population increase, while Dale and Clover Hill had the least growth.

Dividing the total population of 365,306 by five districts, the county arrived at an ideal district size of 73,061 residents. That was the starting point from which it began shifting boundary lines: adding the necessary number of residents to Dale and Clover Hill and taking away residents from Matoaca, while complying with the law and trying to limit disruption to established communities.

Chesterfield’s proposed plan satisfies all requirements under Virginia law: magisterial districts must be compact and contiguous, have clearly observable boundaries (such as streets, rivers and other permanent features shown on maps), have roughly equal populations, and not result in either the “packing” or “cracking” of minority voting strength.  

(Packing occurs when members of a racial voting bloc are concentrated into one district to limit their ability to influence surrounding districts. Cracking occurs when a racial voting bloc is broken up into multiple districts to dilute its influence at the ballot box.)

Due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chesterfield did not receive official census data until mid-August, which was about 6 months later than anticipated.

Despite the accelerated timetable for adopting a new magisterial district map, the county engaged residents in a robust public process for almost two full months following presentation of its initial redistricting proposal in September.

The county launched a dedicated census webpage, including charts and presentations that incorporated new census data, and provided an online portal for residents to submit comments about the proposed redistricting plan.

Feedback also was collected during two Facebook Live community meetings, through Board of Supervisors’ meeting portals and at an in-person public hearing at the board’s Oct. 27 meeting, as well as by phone, email and traditional mail. 

Chesterfield received more than 350 citizen comments. Questions about the redistricting process and plan also were answered live during the two Facebook Live community meetings.

The county received two alternate redistricting proposals for the Board of Supervisors’ consideration three days before the November meeting at which the board was scheduled to adopt a plan for redistricting. However, County Attorney Jeff Mincks concluded that neither complied with law. 

The first proposal violated the equal population requirement because the maximum deviation between the districts exceeded the 5% cap. The second proposal would have shifted an overwhelmingly white section of the Matoaca District into the Dale District, diluting the electoral power of Dale’s growing Black population and representing a legally problematic example of minority vote cracking.

The county plans to update this blog once additional information is received from the attorney general. 


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