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It's back-to-school for state redistricting process

  • The divide
    The divide  This graph shows the division of Virginia's 10 current Congressional districts.  
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William & Mary  is fielding two select teams in a competition designed to assist lawmakers as they race to redraw Virginia’s political map. Teams from both the undergraduate public policy program and the Law School are participating in the 2011 Virginia College and University Legislative Redistricting Competition, the first such competition in the nation.

William & Mary is among 13 colleges, including University of Virginia, George Mason University and Christopher Newport University, that are fielding teams in the competition. The teams will propose new boundaries for Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, 100 state House districts and 40 state Senate districts. Their maps must be completed by March 10.
Government Professors John McGlennon and Ron Rapoport are advising the public policy team; Rebecca Hulse, senior lecturer in law and coordinator of the Law School’s Election Law Program, is advising the team from the William & Mary Law School.

The Constitution requires all 50 states to reapportion legislative districts in accordance with the population shifts recorded by the 2010 Census. With state elections looming this fall, Virginia is the first to act. 

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute will serve as judges for the college competition. Mann and Ornstein will judge the student plans according to whether the proposed districts are contiguous; equal in population; in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act; encompassing communities of interest that are respectful of existing political subdivisions; compact; electorally competitive; and representationally fair.

“The Virginia Redistricting Competition provides a wonderful opportunity to open a process that is traditionally closed and politically self-serving to public scrutiny and participation,” said Mann. “We are pleased to play a role in this very constructive initiative.”

The best maps in each category will be awarded a cash prize and will be presented for consideration by the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting created by Gov. Bob McDonnell. With input from the college competition and others, the Commission will make its recommendation to the Virginia General Assembly by April 1, about a week before the Assembly convenes a special redistricting session.