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Pittsylvania County, like all other Virginia localities that have elections based on districts, is required to have new districts submitted to the Attorney General for Certification by December 31. Before those plans can be submitted to the Attorney General, redistricting plans must be proposed and the public and the Board of Supervisors are given a chance to provide input. The deadline this year is the same as always, but much of the data to support redistricting didn't become available until mid-August, with the full raw data and redistricting toolkit not becoming available until the middle of September. The Census Bureau had difficulty completing the census on a normal schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In previous years, Pittsylvania County staff would develop the redistricting plans once the updated Census data was released. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that data is being provided much later than normal, meaning that Pittsylvania County staff could not reasonably complete the process under the same deadline. That's why an outside firm was hired to develop the redistricting plans.
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The reapportionment or redistricting of the County’s local election districts cover the board of supervisors as well as the school board. However, school attendance zones or districts which are delineated to determine which locations attend public elementary, middle, or high schools are not updated as part of this redistricting project.
The County is split up into four school districts - Dan River, Tunstall, Chatham, and Gretna - for middle and high school students. There are also 10 elementary school districts. The County has seven Magisterial (or election) districts: Dan River, Westover, Tunstall, Chatham-Blairs, Banister, Callands-Gretna, and Staunton River. The current redistricting process is solely to recalibrate the election districts and has no impact on school district lines. A property may end up in a different election district beginning in 2022, but that property will remain in the same school district.
The new electoral districts for Pittsylvania County will go into effect on January 1, 2022, and these districts will remain in place through the end of 2031. Pittsylvania County enrolled ARCBridge Consulting & Training to complete the redistricting process in early September to complete the process under the tight timetable caused by the delays in Census data. Citizens will have ample opportunity to engage with three redistricting plans, provide feedback, and remain informed throughout the process.
There are a wide variety of state and federal laws surrounding the redistricting process, election districts, and polling precincts that will ensure each district is fair. For instance, these are all legal requirements that Pittsylvania County committed to follow with a resolution approved during August's Board of Supervisors meeting:
The Board of Supervisors hiring an outside firm to complete the process is another reason that citizens can trust the fairness of the process. ARCBridge will develop three different redistricting plans, which citizens will have ample time to review and provide feedback on.
Pittsylvania County staff seriously considered trying to complete the redistricting process in house, as had happened in 2010 and 2000. However, with the tight timeline and limited GIS staff, leaders decided to select an outside firm. ARCBridge Consulting & Training was selected due to their previous experience, price, and the speed at which it can complete the process.
Some of the things that ARCBridge has committed to include:
For all of these services, Pittsylvania County will pay ARCBridge $72,055. You can view the proposal from ARCBridge here.
Per our redistricting consultant, ARCBridge, while the state mandated prison adjusted population totals be used instead of the total population to determine the population for each new district as part of the 2021 redistricting process, the VA Division of Legislative Services did not provide population by race data at the Census Block level for the state’s prison population or for the prison-adjusted population. This means that the total County population and districts are based on prison-adjusted populations, but the racial demographics of each district do not use the prison-adjusted population, which leads to some uncertainty in the numbers. However, this is the data that the State has required Pittsylvania County to use.