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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mason District could gain precincts in redistricting process

When the borders of Fairfax County’s magisterial districts get adjusted next year as part of the required redistricting process, Mason district could possibly gain some precincts from adjacent ones, such as Lee, Braddock, or Providence.

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross said, it’s too early to tell, but she suspects Mason’s population has grown somewhat although it is likely to be still under the population threshold. “I can’t speculate which direction it would go,” Gross said.

Redistricting will be based on the 2010 census conducted last April, but that data won’t be available until February 2011. Gross said the population threshold for each district is expected to be about 117,000. The 2009 population for Mason District was 104,281, and the 2010 population had been projected to be 104,785.

Virginia law requires local governments to consider redistricting every 10 years. Last month, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a process and schedule for carrying out redistricting among its nine districts in 2011. According to the timetable approved by the board, it plans to adopt a redistricting plan on April 26, 2011, in time to submit it to the U.S. attorney general for review by the deadline at the end of April 2010.

The U.S. Supreme Court requires a population deviation between districts of not more than 10 percent. Virginia law also requires election districts to follow clearly defined and observable boundaries, such as a road or body of water more than 40 feet wide. And local redistricting must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate against minorities.

The Board of Supervisors also approved the establishment of an advisory committee to consider possible redistricting plans and present recommendations to the board in mid-March. Public hearings have been scheduled for March 29.

The committee will include representatives from each of the county’s nine districts; two at-large members; and a representative from the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Citizens Associations, League of Women Voters, African-American community, Hispanic community, and Asian/Pacific Islander community.

Gross appointed Annandale attorney Robert Schwaninger as the Mason District representative on the redistricting committee. Schwaninger is also a commissioner on the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Data from the 2010 census will also be used to reapportion representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. The General Assembly is expected to move the 2011 primary elections from June 14 to sometime in August to provide more time for the redistricting process.

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