Federal Court Releases New Voting District Cards for Virginia Beach City Council and School Board

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Earlier this week, a federal judge rendered his final ruling on a multi-year case that challenged Virginia Beach’s local general voting system.

Since 1996, no matter where in town a resident lived, they have voted for the 11-member Virginia Beach City Council and School Board. However, earlier this year a judge ruled that the system “denies Hispanics, African Americans and Asians equal access to the electoral and political process.

Now we officially know how that will change.

On Tuesday, a judge ordered the city to pass new redesigned maps for Virginia Beach electoral districts.

An earlier version of the proposed Virginia Beach electoral districts. The special master has since made several slight adjustments (Courtesy: City of Virginia Beach)

The 10 districts have approximately 46,000 inhabitants each.

The mayor of Virginia Beach will still be elected by all residents, but other council members will only be elected by the residents of that particular district.

Changing the way residents vote for Virginia Beach city council and school board members has been a debate for years. However, it was not until March that Federal Court Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that the system violated the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 by denying minorities equal access to the electoral and political process.

Although the city plans to appeal, it likely won’t affect anything by November 2022, when seven council seats are re-elected.

In the new maps, the court-appointed special master, distinguished professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine Dr. Bernard Grofman, drew all city council members to their own districts – except members current board members, Guy Tower and Linwood Branch. . They should fight each other next year.

What we still don’t know: What the Virginia Beach School Board will do.

They have long reflected what city council does, but unlike a directly elected mayor, the chair of the school board is chosen by the other members of the school board.

Additionally, the cards place four school board members in the same district: Dottie Holtz, Victoria Manning, Laura Hughes, and Carolyn Weems.

With a judge making it clear several years ago that it was illegal to move to another district for the sole purpose of running for another election, three of those members may have no choice but to leave the council directors at the end of their term.

The deputy city attorney previously informed city council that a court would likely impose a system of 10 districts and one. Mayor Bobby Dyer said in May that he personally believes the city should avoid a 10-1 system.

Many people in Virginia Beach’s business, tourism, and agricultural communities have fought to keep the system in place for the past 50 years. In this system they would have the ear of all council members, but in the new district system they would only have five.

Yet even if the city’s call for Tuesday’s redesigned neighborhoods is successful, a recently passed state law makes it impossible to return to the current system anyway.

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