Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

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After months of talking about reapportionment, or redistricting as it also is called, maps and plans for magisterial boundaries are available (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/redistricting). The Advisory Citizens Committee on the 2011 Reapportionment completed its study last month, and submitted more than two dozen maps and plans for consideration by the Board of Supervisors.

The ideal district size is 120,192 persons, which means that Mason District needs to grow by about 10,000 people, adding a precinct or two from other districts. The simplest plan proposal would move just four precincts countywide; the most complicated plan would move 74 precincts and create two new districts. The reality is somewhere in between. A public hearing about the redistricting proposals will be conducted on Tuesday, April 12, at 4 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. To sign up to speak at the hearing, call the Clerk to the Board at 703-324-3151.

Redistricting of state Delegate and Senate seats is occurring at the same time; however, the maps and plans for those changes are much harder to find on the state’s Web site, and you may need special software to read the maps. Those plans were crafted by members of the General Assembly, apparently with little or no input from citizen groups. Wholesale changes are proposed, splitting many existing precincts in Fairfax County, including at least four in Mason District. Deeply concerned about the split precincts proposals, the Fairfax County Electoral Board sent a letter to Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly leadership, urging them to reduce the number of split precincts in the final adopted plans. Citing chaos and voter confusion in the polling place, the Electoral Board also noted that split precincts “place an increased and undue financial burden on localities” that would require purchasing additional voting equipment, materials and signage, printing additional ballot styles (there were as many as 53 different ballot iterations anticipated in the fall elections before redistricting gets factored in), and recruiting and hiring additional election officials. A cost estimate of $6 million statewide was made during testimony about the state proposals, termed an unfunded mandate on local tax dollars.

To be clear, the county’s magisterial redistricting must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, and then submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval under provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The state Senate and Delegate redistricting must be approved by the General Assembly, and also submitted to Justice for approval. Potential primary election date for new or redrawn districts is August 23. The General Election date is November 8, and the new election districts become official when members take office on or about January 1, 2012.

Recent callers to my office have complained about a “Best Pick Reports Quality Home Services Guide” that was delivered via U.S. Mail to homes in Northern Virginia. The white and blue cover indicates “Fairfax County” and callers asked why Fairfax County published such a directory, which they termed a waste of taxpayer dollars. The answer is: the guide is not a county publication. It was published by a private entity based in Georgia, which was listed on the return address label. A quick and easy way to determine if any publication is official from Fairfax County: 1) it will have the county seal on it (from the Fairfax family crest, dated 1742), and 2) it will have a notification of the availability of alternative information formats on it. I appreciated the “eagle eyes” of the callers, which provided the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

 


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov


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