RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond is starting its redistricting process – and as the deadline looms, the city council has proposed a process some have criticized for lack of transparency.
The redistricting process occurs every 10 years when the census is conducted, reflecting changes in population across the city. The last redistricting occurred in 2011, following the 2010 census.
The constitution of Virginia calls for localities to reapportion legislative districts – including those for local offices such as the city council and school board – every ten years. The release of census data was delayed this year after the census encountered difficulties during the pandemic.
That means the city likely won’t meet its obligation to redistrict within the ten-year timeframe. Instead, a schedule proposed by the council would see a final plan adopted on Feb. 28, 2022.
Under the current schedule, the city council would work in closed sessions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 24 on redistricting plans that balance the population between the city’s nine districts. Then, they would present their plans for public comment, conducting just one public hearing before a final hearing and vote for adoption on Feb. 28.
The limited opportunities for public engagement lead the Richmond City Democratic Committee (RCDC) to issue a letter opposing the plan, calling on the city council to adopt a more transparent process.
“Residents need time to meaningfully engage in reapportionment, and that engagement cannot be curtailed because Council has not acted expeditiously in determining their process for redistricting,” wrote committee chair Jamie Nolan.
While Richmond City Council races are non-partisan, most elected officials in the city are informally affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Neighboring Henrico and Chesterfield completed their redistricting process earlier this year, before the constitutionally imposed deadline. Henrico invited residents to submit their own redistricting plans for consideration by the board of supervisors, and Chesterfield held multiple remote meetings on Facebook and in person to gather citizen feedback, which eventually lead to changes in their plan.
Under the current proposed process, it appears that Richmond will neither solicit citizen submissions nor hold multiple remote meetings.
Richmond City Democratic Committee’s letter also called for the maps to be “drawn publicly with input from residents and interested community organizations.”
Richmond City Council will vote on the schedule at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 13.
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