Congressional Redistricting a Near Miss for Crozet

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Across the nation, local and national congressional district lines are being redrawn to adjust for the latest 2020 Census data. Crozet lies in the 5th U.S. Congressional district in Virginia and is represented by Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, and Representative Robert Good, a Republican. Heretofore, the oddly-shaped district extended from the North Carolina state line nearly to Virginia’s northern border.  

The redistricting process wrapped up on December 28, and both Crozet and Charlottesville will remain in the 5th district, though Albemarle county will now represent the district’s northern boundary. Virginia’s new maps are the product of an unusual process this year, and the state’s proposed solution threatened to divide Crozet’s representation in half between two redrawn districts.

Virginia established an official commission in 2020 to develop maps for the state legislative and U.S. House of Representatives districts, and this new commission replaced the former process, which was accomplished via bills passed by the Virginia legislature and signed by the Governor. However, the 16-member commission, expressly established to avoid the partisan bickering that often marked the legislative method, failed to agree on any of the seven different proposed maps and collapsed into deadlock.

Virginia’s previous 5th U.S. Congressional district is outlined in black. Courtesy fivethirtyeight.com.

In response, the Virginia Supreme Court stepped in and appointed two map drawers, called “special masters,” to do the job. The special masters, one nominated by each party, had 30 days to produce new political maps and submit them to the public for comments. Their final proposal showed Virginia’s 5th district split into two—the 5th to the south and 10th to the north—at roughly its horizontal middle.

The proposed dividing line was drawn straight through Crozet, tracing Three Notch’d Road to the east and Jarmans Gap Road to the west after a short dog-leg down Crozet Avenue. This would have meant that populated areas of Crozet, a designated growth area, would be represented by two different legislators, in many cases right across the street from each other. For instance, Grayrock and Waylands Grant residents would have been in the 10th district, while Old Trail residents would have been in the 5th. Farther east, the line was drawn along the top of Charlottesville city limits (so the city stayed in the 5th district), but a substantial portion of the urban ring north of Charlottesville was in the 10th. 

The proposed split of Albemarle county into yellow (5th district) and orange (10th district), with the dividing line running straight through Crozet. The proposal was ultimately revised to include all of Albemarle county in the 5th district. (The dots represent public commenters.) Courtesy virginiaredistrcting.org

On the virginiaredistricting.org website, members of the public objected to the line’s placement. “Are you serious?” said commenter Christopher Tyree. “Splitting Crozet in half is only going to compound several problems that are springing up as a result of massive development in this part of the county. It reflects a map drawn by people who have no recollection of what is going on here.”

“I believe it’s illegal under Virginia law to draw a line right through the middle of a community,” said Crozet resident Nathan Alderman on the site. “That doesn’t preserve our community, and it doesn’t give us any hope of having our interests fairly represented.” Commenters stressed that Charlottesville and Albemarle County are a community of interest that should be protected, and that the regions have common economic, cultural, and institutional ties, including the University of Virginia.

Ultimately, the line was drawn to include nearly all of Albemarle county in the 5th Congressional district. Now that it is combined with other exclusively southern Virginia counties instead of a mix of northern and southern regions, the district is expected to retain Republican representation in future cycles. 

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