If you are the least bit familiar with the election process and determining where people vote, this may be of some interest to you. Every 10 years, thanks to the census, voting district lines must be changed to maintain a suitable legislator representation in states. Just like any other state, the Commonwealth of Virginia goes through this same process. Critics are very critical of the process of redistricting, primarily due to the history of redistricting and the fact that most of the time this is all done behind closed doors without public input.
This year it all changed.
A group of some 100 students, including eight of us from Longwood, and 15 universities across the Commonwealth took part in a redistricting competition. The task we were faced with was submitting a map, either Congressional, VA House or VA Senate, to the committee which would then pick the best maps from the state schools, among one of which will go to the Governor’s Commission on Redistricting. They promised to “seriously” take into account the winning map and the rest of the ideas from other maps, even non-winning submissions.
Longwood didn’t win the competition; that went to UVa and William and Mary. Still, we received important experience in the realm of redistricting. We learned about the process and by using the redistricting software, soon found out it wasn’t as easy as it seems on paper. This experience opened the doors to what the current map looked like. The Congressional map was previously full of county splits and barely included a majority minority district, mandated by law. We (my partner Chris Cheatham, junior) composed a map that eliminated a number of county splits, put Richmond into two districts, instead of three, and added more to the minority heavy District 3 in Eastern Virginia.
It was frustrating at times, but I think it was worth it. We began a precedent really because what we did will be used in other states and hopefully, as one speaker said, “spread like wildfire.” Perhaps this will catch on and the process of redistricting behind closed doors will be no more. After all, we need to pick our representatives, not have them pick us.