Council to Reconsider Precinct Boundaries

I heard on WINA that City Council intends to look at the boundaries that define each of the eight voting precincts in the city. They’re going to establish an advisory panel to examine the existing boundaries and look at how they could be improved. If I recall correctly, the boundaries were established long, long ago, when the city was physically smaller. As the city grew, annexing land from the county, the precincts were expanded out to encompass the new area. At this point they’re functionally arbitrary, and badly in need of reconsideration. Any changes will have to be approved by the Department of Justice, to make sure that they’ve been established fairly. Good on Council for taking this step.

Hey, remember that election study that was released two years ago? An elected mayor? Instant runoff voting? Whatever happened to that?

13 thoughts on “Council to Reconsider Precinct Boundaries”

  1. if they change the boundaries don’t they open up a can of worms because of the voting rights act?
    Why do they need to be changed no one is elected by ward anyway?

  2. the can of worms is democracy. last night was the 4th time since the election study Jan ’05 that Council has been asked to update voting precincts. Since then we had the school board study and the registrar has asked Council to change just Tonsler precinct. It’s recorded on my blog. Working on last night’s Council report now. Blair’s Blog

    A 1920 referendum compelled a switch to a single at-large Council and the 4 wards split into 8 precincts following 1963 annexation of Barracks Road Shopping Center.

  3. As I understood it Tuesday night, the pressing issue behind redrawing the precincts now is voting lines and related amenities. Development in Belmont, Tonsler, and JPA areas has drastically increased the number of people who turn out there and the polling places sometimes can’t handle the traffic–there we are developing parking issues, handicapped access issues, and sheer volume issues related to the number of machines you can fit into a polling site. My own precinct — JPA — has changed polling stations 3 times in 4 years. Whereas more stagnant areas, like Alumni Hall, don’t serve nearly the number of people that the polling station could actually handle.

    As we saw in Florida and Ohio, many voters won’t or can’t necessarily wait for an hour to cast a ballot.

    2008 is a wide-open election and will probably turn out the biggest number of voters ever–both for the two primaries and for the November Presidential election. So the election board has wisely asked Council to address the issue this year, so whatever changes need to be made can be in place by Feb. 2008. We’ve only got a year to solve the problem.

  4. The problems you (and others during the school board and council election studies) mentioned are not new. The 2 previous commissions made the same argument. We’ve had two opportunities to improve election efficiency and still keep the at-large form of representation. The maps have already been drawn out and much detail to the 8-precinct, 4-ward and 7-ward neighborhood models. Council need only pick one.

    I expect this proposal to be forgotten by next month only to come up again and again. I doubt Council will voluntarily create the infrastructure to make district elections easier to implement. Especially given the vehement opposition to a diversity of electoral processes and the concentration of power in Council elected perpetually by the same majority.

  5. Charlottesville is 70% Democratic. There is no geographic slice of the city that is majority Republican, or even vaguely in the neighborhood of majority Republican. Instant runoff voting is the only change that could possibly result in having proportional representation of Republicans on Council.

  6. I don’t think it’s really true that a ward system wouldn’t give the City GOP a better shot. A lot of people, particularly well-educated people, don’t vote straight ticket. There are substantial sections of C’ville that vote reliably liberal/progressive on national and state elections who would vote GOP at the city level, just to break up the single-party monopoly of the current system. I think Walker, Clark (maybe not anymore), and Recreation could very well switch sides.

  7. You don’t know that Charlottesville is 70% Democratic because most people don’t vote and don’t participate in the political process. 70% of the voters in charlottesville in the last election may have voted Democratic but more people didn’t vote than voted. The political leanings of most of the adults in Charlottesville are totally unknown.

    I would GUESS that the percentage of those in Charlottesville with Democratic sympathies is greater than the percentage of those with Republican sympathies but I would also guess that the turnout at the polls is greater among those who identify themselves as Democrats or liberal than for those who identify themselves as Republicans or conservative. The organization of the local Democrats and the dis-organization of the local Republicans are both responsible factors.

  8. You don’t know that Charlottesville is 70% Democratic because most people don’t vote and don’t participate in the political process.

    Are our 8-year-olds Democrats or Republicans? Are our convicted felons Democrats or Republicans? Are our eligible, unregistered voters Democrats or Republicans? It doesn’t matter and, really, what party they think claim to be a member of is totally irrelevant. Nobody cares if they’re fascists, because they don’t vote.

  9. Waldo,
    I have always believed that the lack of participation is unimportant to those who benefit from the current results. Why should our city council or local Democrat activists risk getting more people involved and voting when things are locked up their way now? Thank you for validating that belief.

    It’s far better to deceive people and make it appear that there is a huge majority supporting your agenda than to admit that most adults have little faith in the government. It is not true that “Charlottesville is 70% Democratic”. It is true that elections are dominated by Democrats. The difference does matter.

    I am not talking about 8 year olds and I think you could have safely assumed that. I am talking about all adults and that did include felons because Idon’t know what the percentage of the population are convicted felons. BTW, I think they should have their rights restored as soon as they do their time and pay for their crime.

    The unregistered do matter. They are citizens and their lack of participation is in it’s own way a big vote of no confidence in the government. Also, their sympathies may make a huge difference if either party is able to get through their cynicism and get them to vote.
    I do believe that a large number of people who would vote, both liberals and conservatives just stay at home because their cynicism has “mellowed” into apathy.

  10. The unregistered do matter. They are citizens and their lack of participation is in it’s own way a big vote of no confidence in the government.

    They most certainly do not matter for the purpose of determining the likelihood that Republicans could reliably be elected to City Council under a ward-based process. If they do not vote, it does not matter what their claimed affiliation is. The majority of the city could be communists, but if they never, ever vote, then it doesn’t matter what our electoral system looks like.

    Their lack of participation could just as easily indicate a great deal of confidence in our government — rates of voting rise and fall with dissatisfaction with the incumbents. Not voting may simply mean “keep it up.”

  11. The idea that most non-participants in Charlottesville don’t vote beause they are content with the government is ridiculous and shows just how much your zeal has isolated you from reality. On the other hand, some conservative homeowners who don’t vote are satisfied. City Council’s land use and zoning policies have helped make their properties more valuable. The occassional PC proclamation is a small price to pay for a government that has always worked hard to push renters out of the city and drive up the value of homes.

    I also think that those who don’t vote should quit complaining and accept the consequencs of their lack of action. If they want to surrender control over their community I know that you will be happy to take it. Renters in particular have been shafted by a city council that acts like the board of a homeowners association.

  12. We have a free market housing system , not socialism. Except for public housing. City Council cannot tell landlords what they can charge. And we have seen what a disaster public housing and section 8 have been. It is good to favor home ownership over rentals. I rent, but I would not want to live in a neighborhood that is largely rental property. Yes, we need some tweaking,maybe make it easier for people to have so-called “mother-in-law apartments”. But neighborhoods go straight to hell when they are taken over by rental property. Look what happened to Belmont. Fortunately it is making a comeback, with the increase in owner-occupied properties. And then there are the “student slums” near UVa. The University does a poor job housing its students on University-owned property, too busy building athletic facilities instead of apartments.
    If anything, its the middle class HOMEOWNERS who have gotten the shaft, due to higher property taxes so the city can fund some of its schemes. Wealthy Yuppies and retirees who buy condos and townhouses, not single-family detached homes are what the city wants, whether these families rent or buy.
    I want to live in a decent neighhborhood, where people feel free to let their kids outside, not in a neighborhood where people are jammed together like sardines,or in a neighborhood full of unmaintained rental properties, surrounded by the scum of the earth.

  13. I have to say I tend to agree with Kevin (an on-again, off-again thing) – there is a lot of apathy on the conservative side in this town. There is a feeling that the current system is rigged such that there’s almost no way to win. Schilling was an example of the high-water mark, and involved a fair number of ticket changers I expect. The at large system is relatively easily gamed to a 100% win when all you have is a majority (not a super-majority) of voters. Schilling wouldn’t have won if some folks hadn’t split their city council votes.

    In that environment, absent real angst, apathy sets in pretty quickly.

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