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The math seems almost too simple to be true: Arlington has about 240,000 residents, and each Virginia House of Delegates district is comprised of about 80,000-ish people.
So as Virginia embarks on legislative redistricting, why not just carve Arlington up into three neat and tidy House of Delegates districts, and let the rest of the commonwealth squabble over the other 97?
Currently, Arlington is cleaved into four House districts – the 45th, 47th, 48th and 49th – but only one (the 47th, occupied by Democrat Patrick Hope) is entirely in Arlington. The 48th also includes parts of McLean; the 49th parts of Fairfax County; and the 45th parts of Alexandria and Fairfax County.
Simply having three districts all representing Arlington and nowhere else would seem so (here is that word again) simple. Or if the districts are a little larger – say, 85,000 people – two districts could be all-Arlington and the third could be Arlington-plus-Falls-Church.
But don’t bet on it necessarily happening.
“This decision is squarely in the hands of the [Virginia] Redistricting Commission,” Hope told the Sun Gazette. “Beyond compactness and other factors they will consider, it is really hard to predict what other factors they will consider.”
(The Sun Gazette also reached out to Dels. Rip Sullivan in the 48th District and Alfonso Lopez in the 49th District, but received no comments back.)
The Virginia Redistricting Commission – something new for this redistricting cycle – conceivably could exorcise the 45th District out of far-southern Arlington (it is centered on Alexandria anyway) and put the 47th, 48th and 49th entirely within the county’s boundaries. That would require Sullivan (a McLean resident) to both move and give up some of his stronghold precincts, which could be a sticking point.
Another reason local officials might not want the (here’s that word again) simple solution to be enacted: It would dilute Arlington’s power in the General Assembly if the current four legislators in the lower house is cut to three.
The Virginia Redistricting Commission is slated to hold public hearings and send its recommendations to the General Assembly later this year. State lawmakers can vote to approve or reject the boundary lines drawn by the body, but cannot amend them.
Hope, for one, said he is a “yes” vote.
“I intend to support whatever maps in which they reach agreement,” he said of the commission.
Candidates for House of Delegates this year are running under the existing districts; Lopez, Hope and Sullivan, Democrats all, each face opposition on the way to what are expected to be their re-elections, while in the 45th District, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker defeated incumbent Mark Levine in the Democratic primary and is moving on to face Republican opposition in the November general election.
The Virginia Redistricting Commission also is redrawing Virginia’s 40 state Senate seats (next on the ballot in 2023) and 11 U.S. House of Representatives districts (on the ballot in 2022). For information, see the Website at https://virginiaredistricting.org.