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Some incumbents face problems under proposed districts

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Crixell Matthews
Rep. Abigail Spanberger talks to early voters in Henrico County during last year's general election. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

This week, the Supreme Court of Virginia shared drafts of what state and congressional voting districts could look like for the next decade in the commonwealth.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which rates district maps nationwide, rated the partisan split on the proposed maps as better than average or good. However, the project gave the proposed state Senate map its lowest possible rating for competitiveness.

Basically, they say it unfairly advantages incumbents over outsiders, regardless of party.

Rebecca Green, a professor at William & Mary Law School, says she understands why it’s important to make sure incumbents aren’t invincible. But she thinks it’s more about balance.

“People who have been serving for a long time have a lot of institutional knowledge,” Green said. Basically, a savvy politician, particularly one with seniority and power on important committees, might be better positioned to work for constituents. The key factor is that constituents are still able to mobilize to unseat an unpopular representative.

The proposals would upend a fair number of seats; they pair state delegates into single districts, shift the partisan makeup of districts like Rep. Elaine Luria’s around Virginia Beach and even move Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s district 50 miles from her house.

Congressional lawmakers only have to live in the state they’re representing, so Spanberger could still legally run in the now very pro-Democrat 7th district, which would run from Fredericksburg to Woodbridge. The party is expected to hold a 20% advantage there, based on recent voting data, but there are also potential contenders from the area.

State Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William), for instance, wrote on Twitter that he’d seriously consider running in the new district.

Spanberger was drawn into district 5, currently held by Republican Rep. Bob Good.

Spanberger did not respond to VPM’s requests for comment on the draft map or her plans for the future, but she is able to submit public comment to the state Supreme Court.

Virtual public hearings on the maps will be held on Dec. 15 and 17. Virginia residents can sign up to comment virtually or send written comments to the court by emailing [email protected].


Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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