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After shortened redistricting process, Fairfax County leaves map mostly intact, moving seven precincts

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved slight changes to the boundaries of local electoral districts yesterday (Tuesday), following population changes reported by the 2020 Census.

The board voted 9-1 to adopt a new map that keeps the county at nine magisterial districts. The dissent came from the county’s lone Republican supervisor, Pat Herrity, who represents Springfield District, which is affected by five of seven voting precinct changes.

County leaders heralded the redistrict process as transparent and equitable.

“These small adjustments aim to take population changes into account while minimizing the disruption to the daily lives of our residents and keeping communities together,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement following the vote.

The redistricting primarily sought to make supervisors have roughly the same amount of constituents represented in districts and treated equally, McKay said, noting that all districts grew during the last decade except Springfield District.

The board moved forward with a slightly tweaked citizen-proposed plan that shifted seven precincts to a different district:

  • Saratoga (626) — from Mount Vernon to Springfield
  • Fort Buffalo (703) — from Providence to Mason
  • Woodburn (717) — split along the Capital Beltway between Providence and Mason
  • Penderbrook (730) — from Providence to Springfield
  • Irving (827) — from Springfield to Braddock
  • West Springfield (840) — from Springfield to Lee
  • Compton (933) — from Sully to Springfield

The approved map was one of 64 plans proposed by citizens and the county’s 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC).

The adopted 2021 Fairfax County Redistricting Plan (via Fairfax County)

Appointed by the county board in June, the RAC voted on Sept. 27 on their preferred nine, 10, and 11-district plans. There was only one submitted map with 11 districts, and the two preferred 10-district maps were chosen without much contest, but the committee struggled to agree on two nine-district recommendations, ultimately only choosing one.

Stating that he only learned about the anticipated changes to his district on Monday (Dec. 6), Herrity requested that the board vote on the Redistricting Advisory Committee’s preferred nine-district plan, but he failed to get a second to take the matter to a vote.

“The public or the RAC has not seen this particular map,” Herrity said in a lengthy statement that accused Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the board’s legislative committee, and his other colleagues of adopting the plan behind closed doors based on politics.

The typically year-long redistricting process was shortened into five months, because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the release of 2020 Census figures.

County officials noted that there was a public hearing on the matter and meetings throughout the process. Walkinshaw said at the meeting that his door was always open for Herrity to express concerns.

“This is a plan that’s minimally disruptive,” Walkinshaw said, as county officials noted that consistency was a driving factor. He added that ideas from the public can be the best approach, saying the modified plan of “RAC_9_0924_1309″ could have been made by someone in their pajamas.

The Board of Supervisors accepted the last redistricting plan for Fairfax County 9-0 a decade ago. Herrity agreed with that plan, but then-Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins abstained.

Because of Virginia’s new Voting Rights Act, which took effect on July 1, the adopted district map needs to get certified by the state attorney general before becoming active.

Going forward, the Redistricting Advisory Committee has been tasked with evaluating potential name changes to districts. It has until March 1 to make a recommendation to the county board, which would then vote on whether to make any changes.

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