Joint Reapportionment Committee

May 28, 1997, Richmond

The Joint Reapportionment Committee oversees preparations for redistricting and coordinates the Commonwealth's work with the Census Bureau to provide census population reports and maps used in the redistricting process. The committee convened its first meeting to look ahead to the 2000 census and redistricting process and to hear reports on the status of the present congressional redistricting litigation.

Congressional Litigation and Redistricting

Representatives from the Attorney General's office reported that the Commonwealth has filed its appeal with the United States Supreme Court seeking reversal of the District Court decision in Moon v. Meadows, which held that the Third Congressional District is unconstitutional. The ACLU, which joined the Commonwealth in defending the present plan, filed its jurisdictional statement before May 30. Plaintiffs have 30 days to file a response.

The Supreme Court reviews the substance of the request for an appeal. It can decide to hear the appeal or summarily affirm the District Court decision. [The Court rejected the Commonwealth's appeal and affirmed the District Court ruling on Friday, June 27. The Court announced its ruling without a written opinion.]

Staff reported that the 1990s redistricting computer system is being maintained for use in drawing congressional plans and that up-to-date local precinct lines are being incorporated in the redistricting system to the extent possible. Thus if redistricting is required, new plans could follow current precinct lines, which should ease the administration of elections and reduce voter confusion. The plans would be based on the 1990 census population data.

The committee noted that Supreme Court opinions are expected by the end of this term in cases from Georgia and Florida. These court decisions may give some indication of how the court might rule on the Virginia appeal and some guidance on the rules to be followed if congressional districts are redrawn.

The Court announced its decision in the Georgia congressional district case on June 19. The Court, by a 5-4 majority, affirmed a federal district court's redistricting plan for Georgia that reduced the number of majority black districts from three to one (of that state's 11 congressional districts).

On June 25, the Court, by a 5-4 majority, affirmed the twenty-first Florida Senate district earlier approved by the Federal District Court.

The committee will review these developments with staff and the Attorney General's office representatives at a future meeting.

Preparations for the 2001 Redistricting

Phase I: Census Data Programs - Block Boundaries (1995-1997). Staff reported that Virginia has proceeded to cooperate with the Census Bureau in Phase I for the 2000 census pursuant to authorization by the Governor and the General Assembly leadership. This Block Boundary Suggestion Program (BBSP) work is the first step to assure that the blocks shown on the 2000 census maps and used to report population statistics will be compatible with Virginia precincts and districts.

Phase II: Census Data Programs - Precinct Boundaries (1998-1999). Phase II will permit participating states to identify the precinct lines to be shown on census maps and to obtain population statistics for each precinct. Virginia participated in Phase II for the 1990 census. The committee agreed to recommend to the Governor and General Assembly leadership that Virginia participate in Phase II for the 2000 Census.

1998-2000 Budget Request

Costs associated with Phase II of the Census Redistricting Data Program, the Reapportionment Task Force meetings sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, and staff training and research are estimated to be $152,500 for the first year of the biennium.

It is too early to develop precise cost estimates for replacing obsolete computer hardware and software for the 2001 redistricting. The 1988-1990 budget directed the Joint Reapportionment Committee to develop cost estimates and "submit specific budget requirements for the second year of the biennium" to the money committee chairs "no later than December 1, 1988." The committee adopted a motion to support a request for $152,500 for the first year of the 1998-2000 biennium and budget language to have the committee prepare cost estimates for the second year of the biennium by December 1, 1998.

Local Precincts

In the 1980s the General Assembly passed legislation to freeze precinct lines from July 1, 1988, through the redistricting process until June 1, 1991. The lines were frozen so that the precinct lines given to the Census Bureau during Phase II in 1988 and 1989 would remain in place for use in redistricting as shown in the census maps and statistical reports.

Staff recommended that the committee consider legislation for introduction at the 1998 Session to freeze precinct lines beginning September 1, 1998. The committee endorsed this recommended precinct freeze and directed staff to prepare legislation for introduction in the 1998 Session and to advise localities of the committee's action and give advance notice of the legislation.

The Honorable Marian Van Landingham, Chair
Legislative Services contact: Mary Spain