Single-member House districts recommended to Legislature

By Guy Page

The Vermont Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) voted 4-3 on Friday to recommend single-member House districts only for the coming reapportionment of the Vermont Legislature.

Every 10 years the Legislature determines the number and composition of legislative districts, based on the latest U.S. census figures. At present, both House and Senate are a patchwork of single and multiplemember districts. The Legislature will act on the LAB recommendations in the upcoming session, which starts in January.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

Every 10 years the Legislature determines the number and composition of legislative districts, based on the latest U.S. census figures. At present, both House and Senate are a patchwork of single and multiplemember districts.

Board members Rob Roper of Stowe (Republican), Tom Koch of Barre (Republican), Jeremy Hansen of Berlin (Progressive), and Ed Adrian of Burlington (Democrat) were the four deciding votes. The

The vote followed a public survey in which, of 630 respondents, 75% stated that they prefer single member House districts to multimember districts. “The overwhelming percentage of unsolicited emails the LAB received also indicated a strong preference for single member districts,” Roper said.

Many supporters of single-member districts said they are less susceptible to ‘political machine’ influence and more accountable to voters.

Testimony from Vermont’s Racial Equity Director also supported single member districts, noting the historic use of multimember districts for purposes of racial gerrymandering, and their general tendency to disadvantage minority populations.

According to material provided today by Roper, the board also made an effort to meet specific requests from local testimony, for example:

  • Removing sections of Burlington from Winooski.
  • To “put Corinth with its physical, cultural, environmental, and economic partner towns (Topsham, Bradford, Washington, Chelsea, Vershire)”, and to break these towns away from Williamstown.
  • To realign Huntington with Chittenden County as opposed to Washington County. By making the current two-member district, which is Washington County heavy, into two single member districts, Huntington’s pairing with Buell’s Gore, Bolton and the western portion of Waterbury gives more equal weight to the Washington and Chittenden County portions of the district.

The board also identified all towns that can exist as single-town/single member districts as “ideal” districts, and kept all of them as such, the one exception being Hinesburg, for which we maintained the current split of population with Charlotte, which is slightly too small to be a stand-alone single member district.

The board also  identified municipalities that could be evenly subdivided into single member districts without breaking the border, including Burlington (10 districts), and Winooski (2 Districts).

The board also prioritized keeping existing districts that still meet population protocols (ie. Bradford, Fairlee, West Fairlee) as is,  where possible, and maintaining the current outer boundaries of two member districts, but dividing them into two single member districts (ie. Barre Town and Barre City).

Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.

Images courtesy of Flickr/justgrimes and Michael Bielawski/TNR
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