Loudoun’s growth outpaces his political representation in Richmond | Government and politics

BRAMBLETON – Del. Suhas Subramanyam stands on a street corner in this teeming suburban community at the dawn of three of the most politically underrepresented House of Delegates districts in Virginia, based on the constitutional “one person, one vote” standard.

The two-term Democrat represents what was the 87th House district before Virginia’s Supreme Court approved new legislative maps in late December to correct imbalances between population and political representation that are reaching their extreme here in eastern Loudoun County.

Stretching from the Potomac River through one of the fastest growing counties in the United States to a semi-rural corner of Prince William County, the former neighborhood had more than 130,000 residents in 2020 , nearly 44,000 more than the ideal for equal political representation under the Constitutions of the United States and Virginia. No other quarter of a house had more people.

“It’s almost the size of a Senate district by itself. … There certainly shouldn’t be just one delegate district,” Subramanyam said.

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But Subramanyam could continue to represent the old district – which no longer exists according to the court-approved map – for nearly two years unless a federal judge in Richmond authorizes a lawsuit to force an election. in the House in November under new district lines.

“This has never happened before in the history of Virginia,” said Paul Goldman, an activist and former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party who filed the legal challenge nine months ago but faced political resistance and legal opposition to demand House elections this year.

“We have an elected legislature in districts that no longer exist,” Goldman said.

Bob Holsworth, a veteran political analyst in Richmond, said, “I think Goldman is absolutely on the right track with the substance of his argument.”

Under the Supreme Court’s decision in December, Holsworth said, “The lines start now.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares disagrees. The new attorney general, a Republican, is opposing Goldman in U.S. District Court, arguing that he suffered no prejudice giving him standing to sue. Miyares says Virginia is in no way violating the constitution by not ordering House elections this year.

“Attorney General Miyares is satisfied in his legal position that the 2021 elections are constitutional,” spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said Friday. “We will continue to vigorously defend this lawsuit and look forward to presenting our case to the Court.”

The drawing of new maps has been delayed for a year due to late US Census population results during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state did not receive the data until late August, long after the party’s legislative primaries and shortly before early voting began in last fall’s general election. A new bipartisan redistricting commission led to a stalemate, leaving the state Supreme Court to draw new legislative and House boundaries.

As a result, members of the House and Senate will no longer face voters until 2023, unless the court orders an election to be held in November. Senators serve four-year terms, so those who were elected nearly five months ago are expected to stay in office until early 2024. Should Goldman win, the delegates, who serve two years, could face elections in three consecutive years, as they did after a legal challenge 40 years ago.

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Goldman, who lives in a relatively static House neighborhood in Richmond and its surrounding suburbs, must first prove he suffered harm that gives him the right to sue. He argues that an impermissible chasm exists between the residents of the former 68th House District, represented by Del. Dawn Adams, a Democrat, and the least populated home district in the last census.

In the east of Loudoun, the stakes are clear.

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Brambleton, which has grown from cornfields to a community of more than 21,000 people in 20 years, is also divided between two other crowded House districts – the 10th, represented by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, who lives 43 miles away. across the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the 32nd, represented by Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, starting near the Potomac east of Leesburg.

Their districts were the 2nd and 4th most underrepresented in Virginia based on population, respectively, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. They meet here at the intersection of Ryan and Belmont Ridge roads.

According to the new maps, Brambleton will be represented by one delegate – Subramanyam, if he is re-elected in the new 26th district this year or in 2023.

“I’m ready for 22, I’m ready for 23,” he said during an interview at a coffee shop in his community, but in the Gooditis neighborhood. “Whatever happens, we are all ready.”

For Loudoun Democrats, the upcoming election is a chance to win seats in two new Democratic-leaning districts east of Leesburg — 27 and 29 — in addition to 26 and the new 28, where Reid lives. Another open district, the 21st, is just south of Prince William, which included parts of three of the 10 most politically underrepresented House districts in the state under the old map.

Additionally, two Republican incumbents — Del. David LaRock of Loudoun and Del. Michael Webert of Fauquier County – live in the same House District, 30th, under the new map.

But Republicans also have winning opportunities, including in the Richmond area, where Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, represents a district in fast-growing Powhatan County that has about 12,000 more residents than the ideal of 86,314, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

According to the new map, it would represent the new, heavily Republican 72nd District, which would include parts of Powhatan, Chesterfield, Nottoway and Amelia counties. The new 73rd district, an open seat, would be next door, only in Chesterfield.

Likewise, Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, would continue to live in the newly drawn 56th District [although he’s running for a new Senate seat instead]but the adjacent new 59th District would be an open seat that would cover parts of Hanover, Louisa, and Henrico counties.

Ware, in his 25th year and 13th term in the House, does not like Goldman’s proposed remedy, which would require House elections in three successive years from 2021 to 2023. He said it would force delegates “to spend a significant part of three years not representing, but campaigning.”

“Waiting 12 months isn’t going to cripple effective representation,” Ware said.

The stakes may be higher for minority communities that have traditionally been underrepresented, which is why the Virginia NAACP became the first major organization to call House elections this year, followed by the League of Women Voters of Virginia. and several NAACP chapters. The Loudoun chapter attempted to intervene this month to support Goldman’s lawsuit.

The Reverend Michelle Thomas, president of the NAACP of Loudoun, said in a statement that the use of the old cards in the 2021 election “suppressed the votes, diluted the votes and diminished the representation” of more than 600 chapter members. .

“The most populous district (House District 87) is made up mostly of people of color,” Thomas wrote earlier this month in the chapter’s request for action.

Subramanyam reflects the district he represents. The son of Indian immigrants who arrived in the United States at Washington Dulles International Airport – in the middle of the Old Quarter – more than 32% of his voters are Asian, nearly 9% are black and about 15% are Hispanic, while about 40% are white.

The demographic composition of the new 26th arrondissement is even more marked by people of color – 42.5% Asian, 9.3% multiracial and 8.7% black, compared to 36.5% white. Latinos make up 7.8% of the new neighborhood.

Subramanyam reflects his constituents in other ways. He’s a highly trained professional – an attorney who came to the Washington area to work as a technology policy adviser to then-President Barack Obama. He now works as a lawyer for a tech start-up in an area teeming with them.

He moved from Arlington County to Sterling and then to Brambleton for the schools and quality of life offered in East Loudoun for his wife and two children, both under the age of 2.

“I’m like a lot of other people in that I’ve been here for about five years,” he said.

Subramanyam’s arrival coincides with an increase in population in Brambleton from 9,845 in 2010 to 21,358 in 2020, or almost 117%.

(Overall, Loudoun’s population grew by 34.8% from 2010 to 2020, to nearly 421,000.)

He loves constituent service, although it’s difficult in such a large and heavily populated district with priorities that vary widely from communities along the Potomac, such as Cascades, to Bull Run Mountain near Haymarket in Prince William.

“I represent everyone,” he said. “In a district this big, you’re not going to get elected if you don’t.”

But Subramanyam said the new district map is good for Loudoun.

“I think it will be great for Loudoun to have more seats,” he said. “Such a large population center, it deserves more representation.”


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