Redrawing the lines

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March 21, 2011

10:32 PM

Over the past month, teams of students from 13 Virginia colleges and universities competed to redraw Virginia’s voting districts. Redistricting reflects the results of the 2010 National Census, including population shifts and growth. Two teams from the College of William and Mary competed, and the results of the competition are expected to be announced soon.

I want to know: What does this process really do for the communities it affects? Redistricting primarily gives incumbants an advantage in the gain of additional voters, and it allows for greater representation of already highly represented and populated areas in the state and federal governments. Redistricting also affects public school districts and communities as a whole.

Redistricting can change the competitors in district-wide and regional-wide elections. It allows smaller schools to be placed in districts with much larger schools — with much better funding for sports, academic and forensic competitions. The disparity in size and funding can affect how well the smaller school does when competing against the programs available at other larger schools. On the other hand, it can have a good outcome for smaller schools: Grouping less-populated areas into one larger area, smaller schools could have a better chance to do well at competitions and possibly increase their funding.

Redistricting dramatically affects community voting habits and can even affect the district under which a community is classified. This can cause voter confusion because they can no longer vote for familiar candidates for whom they may have voted before. Whether the outcome is positive or negative, all possibilities should be discussed before redistricting a community so drastically.

Through redistricting, current elected officials are given an unfair advantage over their opposing candidates with the population of a new district. Adding new communities to a district changes the voter distribution for elected officials, especially those with high approval ratings, who are most likely to be re-elected if citizens know the district, the incumbent and are familiar with the way the district has been run. However, it could also mean the end of a candidate’s political career if a district is being run poorly; after redistricting, new votes are available for the opposing candidate.

To me, redistricting seems like a tedious process that politicians and their staff undergo in order to possibly win more votes, but that usually causes more harm than good — especially for public school systems. While there are some benefits of the process, the cons far outweigh the pros for most redistricted communities.

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