Redistricting opened for quick comment Monday

Chesterfield is under pressure to complete its rearrangement of the jig-saw puzzle that is the array of voting precincts. By law the entire country goes into redistricting mode after the each census – every 10 years. At issue how to go about this shuffle. Stylian P. “Stel” Parthemos, deputy county attorney has supervised the dance of the precincts, and at a community meeting Monday evening he presented two plans.

The plan for rearranging voting precincts in Chesterfield centers on Magisterial Districts and equalizing to within 5 percent the population in each district. Mr. Parthemos, has come up with two plans: Plan A, which moves 14,781 constituents to new districts, and Plan B, which moves 42,082 citizens to new districts.

Margaret Davis, who lives in Bensley, which by way of Plan B could be moved from the Bermuda District to the Dale District, asked “if the final decision will be made by the Board of Supervisors or would there be addition input allowed by citizens.” To which Parthemos said, “That’s why we’re having tonight’s meeting,” to get input from citizens.

The Board of Supervisors is required to make a decision on Plan A or B at their April 27 meeting, but in the meantime the Virginia General Assembly is going through the same process and their rearranging of voting districts could greatly affect some areas of the county. Robert Olsen, who lives in the Midlothian area, asked “why are we doing this now when we have to wait for the Senate to make their changes?”  

Parthemos reiterated that the redistricting had to be completed by April 27, although Chesterfield County Voting Registrar Lawrence Haake said there will be at least three additional voting precincts added under either plan, and the General Assembly plan could add at least one more. Haake said that each district added will cost the county $25,000.

Any decision by the General Assembly is expected to affect the Midlothian and Clover Hill districts along the border with Richmond and could add another precinct in that location. Current General Assembly working maps show Senate and House districts crisscrossing the Davis, Providence and Manchester precincts.

Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said she likes Plan A because it keeps both the Bellwood and Drewry’s Bluff precincts in her district. But Plan A also removes a triangular shape of Drewry’s Bluff that contains over 1,000 multi-family units, which are  predominately occupied by minorities. Ms. Jaeckle said that that area would fit well in the Dale District. Plan A also has Bermuda picking up part of the Nash precinct and part of the Winfrees Store precinct. Plan B would add all of Nash and the Salem Church precincts to Bermuda, which could displace a possible candidate that could oppose Mr. Holland in the fall election.

Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland has made his preference known as well. Holland said he likes Plan B, according to an article published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, because the plan is “more contiguous.” Plan B would give to Dale District the Bensley and Bellwood precincts but it would lose Salem and Nash precincts.  In Plan A the one small triangle of multi-family housing would offset the loss of Salem and Nash precints to the Bermuda District.

The issue of splitting the county into seven Magisterial Districts, opposed to the current five, has gone unmentioned during the process until Monday evening. William Hastings, who lives in Matoaca District, dropped the seven district bomb during Monday’s meeting, asking Parthemos if seven districts had been considered.

“Mindful of the fast-track process the state has put us under,” Parthemos said. “We didn’t consider seven districts.”

Marleen Durfee, Matoaca District Supervisor, agrees with the seven district concept. She said the Matoaca District alone is as large as Henrico County, adding that she puts a lot a miles on her car while  trying to do a lot for both ends of her district.

Maps for both plans will be available with this article online at www.villagenewsonline.com.

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