There’s reasonable suspicion that the special masters assigned by the Supreme Court of Virginia to draw this decade’s district lines are big University of Virginia fans, and avid Virginia Tech detractors.
Albemarle County (a donut-shaped county with Charlottesville City carved out in the middle) and co. got a new seat in the House of Delegates that unites communities of interest, as well as a new State Senate district that no longer stretches to the West Virginia border due to Democratic gerrymandering.
The college town of Blacksburg was drawn into a solidly Republican State Senate district that reaches as far as Tazewell County. This is a House of Delegates district that Glenn Youngkin won by 11 points, and the Republican candidates for the House of Delegates won by an even larger margin. Despite voting for Biden by 74%, Virginia Tech will be seeing red for the next ten years to come.
MAP I | 2021 HoD Election Results in HD-41
The Roanoke Valley and New River Valley are two entirely separate communities of interest, and yet the new map groups the two of them together and unnecessarily splits them both. It would have been common sense to unite the two college towns of Blacksburg and Radford in the new House of Delegates map, especially after so many Virginians complained about the draft map for this very reason, but the special masters did not comply.
To further illustrate the divide between these two communities, let’s look at the difference in the precinct results in the races for the House of Delegates and the race for Governor.
MAP II | Difference between 2021 HoD elections and 2021 Governor
The new HD-41 is made up of three different districts under the old Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates: Districts 7, 8, and 12.
In the old District 8, which combined parts of Montgomery County with the Roanoke Valley, incumbent Republican Joe McNamara performed significantly better in the Roanoke portion of his district than in Montgomery.
In District 12, incumbent Democrat Chris Hurst (who lost re-election) ran on par with the Democratic nominee in District 8 despite being an incumbent, likely due to his various scandals.
The oddball in Montgomery are the results in District 9, where Republican Marie March lagged behind Glenn Youngkin. This could be due to Marie March being the most far-right Republican to win a seat in the House of Delegates in 2021, which turned off moderate and center-right Republicans in southern Montgomery.
It begs the question– What would a better map for Blacksburg look like, exactly?
We’ll illustrate an example.
MAP III | Map Proposal for a Blacksburg-based House of Delegates district: 2021 House of Delegates results
This proposal unites the college towns of Blacksburg and Radford and divides Montgomery County by north and south rather than joining Blacksburg with the deeply rural and conservative southern end of the county. It ensures that another large college student community outside of Charlottesville gets to have a say in who represents them in the General Assembly.
MAP IV | Map Proposal for a Blacksburg-based House of Delegates district: Difference between 2021 House of Delegates and Governor
As you can see in the map above, the precincts that were in District 12 had decent ticket-splitting for Republican Jason Ballard, who unseated Chris Hurst. The story in the precincts here are the same as they are in the rest of March’s district; she ran behind Youngkin by impressive margins, even losing a precinct that voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2020 in the northern Christiansburg area. This is the same precinct that voted for Mark Warner (D) in the election for US Senate in 2020.
Unfortunately, this district will not be in play for this decade’s elections, the college towns of Blacksburg and Radford have been robbed of fair representation for now. Hopefully, when it’s time to draw new lines for the 2030s, Radford and Blacksburg will enjoy a district that guarantees both communities of young folks a Delegate that represents their shared interests.