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Redistricting shakes up elections for voters in Virginia

Both political parties in Virginia are reshaping their strategies to reach voters in the state of Virginia as some voters will find themselves in new voting districts this primary and general election.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 2:12 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Elizabeth Martin is busy shifting through paperwork and answering questions as the Winchester election director leads her community through the confusion of redistricting in Virginia.

“We’ve had thousands of phone calls. Why did I get this letter?” she said as she refers to the state letter that altered voters of changes to the district voting lines. That letter alerts voters if their polling places have changed and if they will notice different candidates on their ballots. “And we’ll say tune in to the bottom of the letter where it’s your new congressional district, the new state senate district, and your new House of Delegates district.”

Martin, who oversees the elections and general registrar in Winchester, said she felt the letter still left a gap for voters in clearing up questions as she said many voters aren’t even aware of why redistricting happens. Redistricting takes place every 10 years after the census.

“I’m trying to put out there: you used to be in this congressional district with this congresswoman and now you’re in this one,” she said.

Martin has sent out mailings, placed new maps on the city website, and reached out to the local paper to inform voters of the changes. She even tacked on message to the water bills. But even after that work, she expects more questions to come this November when more voters are expected to turn out at the polls.

“Virginia used a new process this year to redraw their maps,” said Dr. Nick Goedert, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech. “It was designed to be drawn by a bipartisan commission. But, the commission could not agree on maps so the maps ended up being drawn by the Virginia state Supreme Court.”

Goedert said he believes for the most part the Virginia Supreme Court drew fairly ‘fair’ congressional maps that will not change the composition or partisan balance of the state. He said for the most part he doesn’t believe the partisan balance of the delegation will change much with the exception of a couple of potentially competitive races in the center of Virginia and the southeast corner in which the democrats now hold.

“Virginia has become an increasingly democratic leaning state,” said Goedert. However, he later added, “it’s not so democratic that republicans could not potentially be competitive in a year when republicans tend to do generally well across the nation.”

Republican National Committee spokesperson Paris Dennard referenced a ‘red tide’ that he believes is moving through Virginia. He said in 2022, the party’s strategy will remain the same as it did in 2021 when Gov. Glenn Youngkin was elected and the state house control flipped to the GOP.

“With Virginia the strategy is to continue to do the work that we did to turn Virginia red. Look, Governor Youngkin did an excellent job on the campaign trail. He was able to expand the party, reach voters that we had frankly lost and brought them back into the Republican party, especially suburban women,” said Dennard.

Democrats say they view the republican wins in 2021 as a hiccup and will continue to focus on voter outreach in future elections. They said they are focused on issues of the economy, stopping gun violence, healthcare, and protecting reproductive healthcare especially if ‘Roe v Wade’ is overturned by the Supreme Court.

“We’re not going to let republicans take back the state. No. We’re going to keep fighting. We firmly believe Virginia is a blue state,” said Gianni Snidle, Democratic Party of Virginia. “We know what we have to do and voters will see that and send our democrats back to congress.”

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