Home Elaine Luria Public Comments on Redistricting of VA02 Stress That “Norfolk and Virginia Beach...

Public Comments on Redistricting of VA02 Stress That “Norfolk and Virginia Beach are inextricable communities of interest,” Charge That New Lines Would “disenfranchise the military and veteran families of Norfolk”

Comments also decry "the odd meandering Crooked J shape of this proposed district"

2429
0

See below for some highlights from the public comments to the Virginia Supreme Court on the proposed new lines for VA02, which is represented by Rep. Elaine Luria and which currently is comprised of all/parts of: Virginia Beach (63.3% of the district), York County (6.3% of the district), Norfolk (9.2% of the district), Accomack County (4.9% of the district), Hampton (4.6% of the district), James City County (2.6% of the district), Williamsburg (2.0% of the district), Northampton County (1.9% of the district), Poquoson (1.9% of the district), Newport News (0.1% of the district).

In contrast, for the “Special Masters'” proposed VA02 district lines, click here. The makeup of the new district would be as follows: Virginia Beach City (58.5% of the new district); Chesapeake City (16.5% of the new district); Suffolk City (12.0% of the new district); Isle of Wight County (4.9% of the new district); Accomack County (4.3% of the new district); Northampton County (1.6% of the new district); Southampton County (1.2% of the new district); Franklin City (1.0% of the new district). According to FiveThirtyEight.com, “around two-thirds of the current 2nd District would be in the new one,” BUT “the seat would go from R+2 under the current lines to R+6, giving her a tougher path to reelection.”

So with that background, here are some highlights from the public comments to the VA Supreme Court, specifically on VA02 (bolding added by me for emphasis), mostly stressing the need to keep communities of interest (e.g., communities around U.S. Navy bases in Norfolk and Virginia Beach) together, to not remove parts of Norfolk from the district or “disenfranchise the military and veteran families” of the region, etc. We’ll see if the VA Supreme Court takes any of this feedback into account before issuing final maps…

***************************************************

Seems the 2nd got cheated. It only got the scraps of what wasn’t put into CDs 3 & 4. Military and veterans have huge populations in Hampton Roads, and they should not be split in the congressional districts. The bases work together and active duty service members live in both Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Why split them after all these years? Our military and veteran citizens deserve to have the same federal representation to advocate for their interests. The communities in Ocean View and bordering Norfolk NAS and Little Creek overlap with Virginia Beach as a community of interest. These residents have more in common with the Beach than the downtown and Ghent areas of the City. Furthermore, Isle of Wight & Suffolk share more with Portsmouth in the 3rd than they do with Virginia Beach. The way the map is drawn succeeds in decreasing the minority representation in VA-03. The parts of Norfolk that correspond as a community of interest should go back into VA-02 and Suffolk/Isle of Wight should be in the 3rd, as it would strengthen minority representation. It appears that Districts 2 and 3 and 4 were redrawn specifically so that a congressional rep would no longer live in their District. Smells bad.

The changes being made to Districts 2 and 3 appear intended to tip the toss up District 2 into the GOP column. You have moved areas with a higher percentage of Black voters, typically Democrats, from District 2 into District 3 which is already overwhelmingly Democratic. Hampton Roads as a whole is majority Democrat. Please have our 2 main Districts represent that. It’s an honest representation of the area. Please provide each district the same percentage of Democrat and GOP voters as the overall percentage of Democrat and GOP in the clearly identifiable area. Hampton Roads is not an abstract idea. It is a singularly identified region in Federal, Regional and Commonwealth planning and commercial organizations.

A note on the functional contiguity of the proposed 2nd District: A potentially viable option to create functional contiguity to this district would be to move the Western Branch area of Chesapeake from the 3rd district to the 2nd while extending the 3rd further into either Greenbrier and Great Bridge, into western Virginia Beach, or a combination of the two. Doing so should have minimal impact to either the majority-minority status, statutory requirements, or partisan balancing.

The removal of Norfolk from the 2nd District feels as if it dilutes the POC voices and packs them into the 4th District. The areas that were added to cover the loss of Norfolk are much more rural than most of Virginia Beach. Per my last comment, the seemingly packed area is the 3rd district, not the 4th.

The Second district should be expanded to the west. The district should be more compact. Removing parts of Norfolk including Ocean View, near two main Navy bases and replacing it will Suffolk spread the area unnecessarily. The move also mixes two areas will different concerns. The Navy and maritime industries are concentrated in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Isle of Wright and Suffolk are more agricultural. Many sailors, veteran and their families and maritime worker and their families live in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Having one Representative to follow the needs of this population will make the assessment of their concerns more focused, and lead to better representation. Similarly placing Isle of Wright and Suffolk in a district with more agriculture concerns will improve representation for those citizens

The ocean view and waterfront parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach specifically should be together in federal representation due to their shared environmental concerns. Reports by leading environmental scientists that the sea level could rise by several feet along our shores by the end of the century should be raising serious alarm. Beyond the human cost of that disastrous possibility, the economic and infrastructural damage such a change could inflict on these communities is unthinkable

I disagree with Suffolk City lumped into the 2nd district with the upper counties along the coast. The city has much more in common with Norfolk/Portsmouth with its many military residents. Additionally our interest are closer to those of Norfolk and Portsmouth. We are not contiguous on land due to the Great Dismal Swamp separating the city from its next neighbor.

Louisa and Fluvanna Counties have little in common with the eastern part of the state, which forms most of this district. It is disheartening to see this plan divest all three incumbent women from their current districts, particularly as all the men’s districts have been preserved for them.

Connecting Eastern Shore & Southampton County is not a community of interest.

New VA-2 stretches way too far inland. This is a coastal district which is a very poor much for anything west of Suffolk. This area fits better in VA-04. VA-02 should hug the coastline, picking up part of Newport News or Hampton which is more similar to Norfolk/Chesapeake area.

This is a really odd way to split Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Portsmouth fit well together. Why carve so much out of VA-02 just to end up extend the district much further west than it belongs?

I am disappointed that our sister city of Norfolk is being cut off from Virginia Beach in this redistricting. We are both heavily Navy towns and our interests tie together for military and environmental issues. Many people live in Norfolk & work in Virginia Beach and vice versa. We therefore have like interests and like needs and representation.

The new VA CD Dist. #2 Map is a deliberate attempt to defeat Rep. Luria in 2022 and make it very difficult for any future Democrat to represent CD VA #2

Seems like the new map is separating military communities in Virginia Beach from those in Norfolk. I would prefer including the military communities of Norfolk with those of Virginia Beach and reduce the area west of Norfolk for CD2

On the whole, I like this map. But Districts 2 and 3 trouble me. District 3 seems a bit overstuffed with minority voters while being less populated then the surrounding districts. And District 2 s certainly not compact, only theoretically contiguous, and merges very rural areas with the most populous city in the state. I can’t see any common interest across this sprawling district. I do understand the constraints of physical geography make this a tough area to map, but I’m not satisfied with this solution.

Military communities are at the heart of the current iteration of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional district, and they are at the core of the Hampton Roads community. It makes sense to unify areas of Norfolk around the naval station with the City of Virginia Beach, as these areas are home to the largest active-duty population in the United States. Putting some of the less racially diverse parts of Norfolk in VA-02 would also allow VA-03 to take in more African-American areas that would be best represented in an opportunity district.

This version of VA-02 is only contiguous because it crosses over the Great Dismal Swamp, a large conservation area with no population, to connect two areas that are otherwise cut off from each other. In other words, it is impossible to drive from one part of VA-02 to another without driving through large portions of VA-03.

It seems quite odd to place the heavily African-American cities of Franklin and Suffolk in a district that is dominated by whiter communities on the Eastern Shore and in Virginia Beach and South Chesapeake. This could very well lead to a situation in which African-American voters in these areas are unable to elect a representative of their choice. It would make much more sense for these voters to be living in an opportunity district (VA-03 or VA-04) and have these two communities swapped out for whiter areas of Norfolk or suburban Chesterfield.

Naval installations, ship building and other maritime interests are the heart and soul of what should be the CD 2 community of interest. The proposed map misses that mark by a wide margin by including four rural counties that have little or nothing to do with the core community of interest in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Those three cities represented in a single CD 2 would holistically combine the naval/shipbuilding/maritime community of interest in Hampton Roads. In terms of compactness the current map is far to spread out. Franklin to the top end of Accomack County is at least 160 miles. Additionally, a Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth district would be a better balance of minority interests in the area.

It seems that CD3 was drawn with the intention of putting all the minorities in the Hampton Roads area into one district. This does a great disservice to minority and majority populations. Minorities should be able to be represented by those they choose, and majority populations must not be able to ignore minority populations.

Why are Williamsburg, York County, and James City County being split from Hampton Roads? This district is huge and doesn’t reflect the reality of the region at large. Southern JCC and W-burg have less in common with Goochland than they do Newport News.

The 2nd Congressional District should start with the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, to include the Virginia Eastern Shore and then Hampton, Portsmouth or Chesapeake. Norfolk and Virginia Beach share both military infrastructure and bedroom communities of the Norfolk Naval Base including Little Creek, Oceana Master Jet Base, Dam Neck as well as the Norfolk Naval Base and Air Station. It is a travesty not to include these 2 cities together in one CD, as it was before and for so long.

Glad to see CD2 become more geographically cohesive, but moving the Norfolk portion of the Naval Base into a separate CD from the other Naval installations in the area seems to counter to keeping communities of interest together. Many service members work in Norfolk, but live in VB or Chesapeake. Please consider redrawing portions or Norfolk back into CD2. These soldiers and service members deserve to have their voices heard and not diluted.

It seems like so much there was so much focus put on keeping the 3rd District compact that the 2nd District was a complete afterthought. In terms of communities of interest, Virginia Beach and Norfolk have much more in common and have been well represented by a shared congressperson. The active military and veteran communities in Norfolk and Virginia Beach are the backbone of our community-at-large and would be better served with a shared congressperson than two cities like Suffolk and Virginia Beach would. As it stands, CD2 are the leftover scraps from drawing CD3 and CD4, and we are left with a district that spans a 3-hour drive from one corner to the other when the way it was previously drawn was so much better.

This map has many problems, but this VA-2 & VA-3 setup is grotesque and perverse. It’s a blatant gerrymander meant to disenfranchise the military and veteran families of Norfolk. Just put them back in VA-2 so their votes can matter.

I am glad that this proposed map does not result in a strong Republican gerrymander like many national pundits were predicting would happen if the process was taken over by the Supreme Court of Virginia. I like the map overall but the 10th district not including the City of Charlottesville and splitting Albemarle County, and the 2nd district bypassing Norfolk to take in rural areas SW of Virginia Beach seem to deliberately be benefiting the Republican Party.

Is it just coincidence that all three of our incumbent congresswomen take significant hits with this map while every one of our incumbent congressmen remain in safe districts? Just wondering.

CD2 should maintain its portion of Norfolk which would keep the district more compact and ensure proper representation of our large military and veteran population.

The three women in Congress are either eliminated from successfully running again or significantly disadvantaged by this redistricting map, while all the men’s districts are strengthened. It shocks the conscience and does not seem defensible. I’d expect to see all the incumbents disadvantaged to a degree, but that is not the case.

Putting half of Norfolk into the 2nd and Suffolk/Isle of Wight areas back into the 3rd makes more sense on every level: (A) It’s more compact. (B) It better preserves communities of interest: Norfolk’s Superward 6 communities (Oceanview/Larchmont/etc, see attachment) overlap with VB as a community of interest where a high % of residents work + know each other across city lines, while Suffolk/Isle of Wight share more with Portsmouth in the 3rd. (C) It strengthens minority representation, keeping the 3rd at 48% much closer to its current Black %. (D) Least importantly but nonetheless, Rep. Luria’s Norfolk residence is kept in district. See attachment for image: By exchanging this half of Norfolk into the 2nd for Suffolk/Isle of Wight into the 3rd, all of these objectives are achieved without affecting any of the other districts, and, in fact, it (E) increases population parity along the way.

You can make the 2nd far more compact by restricting it to the Eastern Shore/VB/Chesapeake and part of Norfolk. The 3rd should retain parts of the Peninsula/Norfolk/Portsmouth, but also take in Suffolk/Emporia, etc. This would strengthen the voting power of African Americans in the 3rd and improves maintaining communities of interest as opposed to the proposed map.

Letters submitted:

Thank you for taking my comments into consideration.

I am dumbfounded how the 2nd congressional district fails to be consolidated into communities of interest. The current district snakes from the Eastern Shore through Norfolk and crisscrossing up the Virginia Peninsula. This is just crazy.

CD 2 should be a South Hampton Roads anchored district. Norfolk and Virginia Beach are tied to the Norfolk Naval Base with all the active duty and veterans who reside here. Why not have a Newport News/Hampton anchored peninsula district and the Norfolk/VB district. For that matter, a Chesapeake/Portsmouth might be considered for a 3rd sea anchor.

Please consider a Norfolk/VB district for CD2.

One other point. End the precinct spitting. If communities of interest are important, it would seem neighbors in a precinct are this by definition!

Charles F. Stanton

Norfolk, VA

 

Good afternoon,

My name is Jacob Levy. I’m a Virginia Beach resident, lifelong Norfolk/Virginia Beach resident, and 3rd year student at Georgetown Law (where I’ve studied election law encompassing redistricting under Rick Hasen). I write in regard to the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts in the Virginia redistricting process — my community.

The redistricting commission’s allocation of Chesapeake to the 2nd and 3rd is a commendable improvement. However, I write to voice that the northern half of Norfolk should remain in the 2nd district where it has historically been. In turn, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Franklin, and the eastern sliver of Southampton should remain in the 3rd rather than be moved to the 2nd. These two changes entail virtually identical population sizes and would effectively “cancel each other out”, with virtually no other changes necessary in response (This suggestion can be viewed in the image attached at bottom of this email, or at this link: https://davesredistricting.org/maps#viewmap::118ae4b3-d87b-406c-b9df7611b85e383b) This largely keeps the redistricting commision’s Chesapeake changes intact, while better preserving communities of interest: The Suffolk/Franklin areas share more with Portsmouth and the rest of the 3rd, while the northern part of Norfolk is far more a community of interest with Virginia Beach. I speak from personal experience, having lived in various parts of Virginia Beach but always gone to school in, worshiped in, and visited friends and family in these relevant parts of Norfolk that have always been with us in the 2nd. Further, this proposal strengthens minority representation, keeping the 3rd district closer to its current state than the new redistricting proposal, which diminishes its Black representation. This proposal is also more geographically compact/clean (and as for partisan effect, if that’s a consideration, it leaves the already-competitive 2nd district virtually unchanged and still very competitive for both parties.)

Perhaps most importantly, this change to the 2nd/3rd CDs in the redistricting proposal can be done without making any other changes to any other districts on the map. Redistricting is difficult when one change messes up the map somewhere else, and I understand that may leave the Supreme Court hesitant to make changes to the Special Masters’ map. However, that is not a problem with this suggested change here: all other districts remain unchanged, and the 2nd/3rd CD’s end up at even more equal population parity after this change.

It appears that the map proposed by the Special Masters for this district is deficient in the following respects, and should be redrawn: Compactness/Contiguity – The Special Masters have recommended a weird, sprawling Dr. Seuss-style “Crooked J” shaped map that skips around the heart of what should be the Second District: the northern portion or all of Norfolk, along with all of Virginia Beach. In addition to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, out of geographic necessity, the Second District must also include the Eastern Shore, since the Eastern Shore is a peninsula connected only by a lengthy bridge-tunnel to Virginia Beach, with no land connection to any other Virginia jurisdiction. The Second District should also arguably include the northern portion of Chesapeake, which would make a district that is contiguous, compact, and urban/suburban in nature.

In contrast, there is no reason whatsoever to include the largely landlocked and extremely rural Southside jurisdictions of Southampton County, City of Franklin, Isle of Wight, or City of Suffolk. Adding these jurisdictions to the Second Congressional District creates a district that is neither compact nor contiguous on even a cursory examination, as the Special Masters specifically acknowledged.

On its face, the odd meandering Crooked J shape of this proposed district encircles and skirts contiguous jurisdictions that should have been included in the Second Congressional District, particularly Norfolk. The Crooked J map makes a large loop around nearby jurisdictions, then wanders miles away, deep into random unrelated, non-contiguous rural areas that have nothing whatsoever in common with the core South Hampton Roads cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Unfortunately, the Crooked J shape provides instant visual evidence of unacceptable gerrymandering, and negates the contention that a fair and equitable process occurred.

Communities of interest – Norfolk and Virginia Beach are inextricable communities of interest. The prime geographic feature of these two communities of interest is the water – the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton Roads (the waterway that connects the ocean to the bay), and the mouths of important rivers such as the Elizabeth River, Little Creek, the Lynnhaven, and the Lafayette River, as well as numerous smaller inland waterways. These prominent water features define both the shoreline and the inland areas around them, and have led to thriving military, industrial, and tourism uses in both of these adjoining cities.

Military bases include numerous huge U.S. Navy installations. The crown jewel of these military bases is in northern Norfolk: Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, with an adjacent airfield, aircraft  carrier strike groups, military sealift command, destroyer squadrons, a submarine squadron, six aircraft carriers, and amphibious assault ships. Along its border with Norfolk, Virginia Beach hosts Joint  expeditionary Base Little Creek. Further inland, Virginia Beach features the huge Naval Air Station Oceana, where the fighter jets and pilots that are an integral part of the aircraft carriers from Naval Station Norfolk are housed and trained, as well as the 203rd Red Horse Squadron of the Air National Guard at Camp Pendleton. Further east are the Fort Story Army/Navy joint base and the Dam Neck Naval Base.

The pre-eminence of U.S. military bases in the neighboring cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach leads to a large population of active duty military service members and veterans and their families, who live in the surrounding urban/suburban areas of both cities. In addition, many private companies of all kinds support the military, veterans, and their families. For example, the private shipbuilding/repair companies along the Norfolk waterfront of the Elizabeth River serve both military and private customers. At the nearby Waterside/Town Point Park area, water-themed tourism, restaurants, and offices predominate. Similarly, on the Chesapeake Bay and at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and other beaches, the tourism industry also thrives, with restaurants, hotels and entertainment that complement the military presence in the area. Norfolk and Virginia Beach are two sides of the same coin, interchangeable and intertwined communities of interest which should share and anchor the Second Congressional District.

In contrast, the largely landlocked and unrelated non-contiguous rural areas of Franklin, Southampton, Isle of Wight and Suffolk do not belong in the Second District. Their pointless inclusion in the Crooked J map smacks of political manipulation, not geographic or social necessity. In fact, while the Special Masters describe this Crooked J map as competitive, the Second District would reportedly go from currently competitive to +5 or more Republican if that skewed map were adopted.

…in its present non-compliant Crooked J configuration, the Second District map will most likely be litigated in federal court again.

 

Two of the three female members of Congress in Virginia have had their hometown drawn out from under them by this all-male map-making team. None of the eight male members of Congress have suffered that arbitrary and unfair fate. The results speak for themselves, and should be remedied immediately.

The Second District incumbent is a retired U.S. Navy Commander who overcame many obstacles to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, become a nuclear engineer, and serve on active duty as a surface warship officer for two decades. She went on to achieve election to Congress twice, defeating the same male former member of Congress two times in a row, despite fraud and criminal conduct by his campaign. She is a brilliant Representative of the anchor cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, as well as the entire Hampton Roads area. Her decades-long public service and sacrifice should not be wiped out by the hasty and ill-informed stroke of the Special Masters’ pen.

Women and minorities in the Second and Third Districts should not be abandoned to fight over the leftover scraps of Hampton Roads geography. Each of these overlapping groups (overlapping in the sense that many women are also minorities) have complementary, not competing, equity interests that supersede the Special Masters’ arbitrary and unreasoned insistence that the re-mapping of the Third District occur at all, and that it occur first before any consideration of a balanced, fair re-mapping of the Second District. These protected equity interests of minorities and women should be put front and center, considered first, not last, and resolved before the Special Masters address more mundane matters.

Like racial equity, gender equity is not an “issue,” an interest, or an elusive, far off goal. It is an imperative, a constitutional and legal right. This map should be modified so that it does not discriminate against the few courageous representatives of over half of Virginia’s population, women. To quote the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (quoting Sara Grimke), “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

It is now 2021, soon to be 2022. In 2021, women deserve their rights, from the courts and from all branches of government. That includes the right and opportunity to elect candidates of their female gender, without arbitrary, unfair interference from the courts and the Special Masters.

The electoral fate of the current two-term female incumbent in the Second District should depend on the will of the voters of the Second District, not on the whims of unelected Special Masters who report only to the court.

Conclusion – For the reasons set forth above, the City of Norfolk, or at least the northern portion of the City of Norfolk, should be returned to the Second District map. The Special Masters should be specifically instructed to re-design the Crooked J map so that the Second District is compact, contiguous, and recognizes communities of interest, with an equal emphasis on the rights of the affected communities and all of their voters to elect candidates who achieve the imperative of gender equity as well as racial equity.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan B. Potter, Esq.

By intentionally placing Elaine Luria’s home address outside the boundaries of the revised 2nd District, the Masters appear to be targeting her in order to deprive her of reelection and to increase the number of Republican Congressional members who represent Virginia voters. Indeed, that conclusion is made obvious by how the Masters also propose to redistrict other female Democratic Congressional members. In addition, the Masters have split between the 2nd and 3rd districts voters, such as active and retired military members, who live in Norfolk or Virginia Beach and clearly share common interests. By doing so, the Masters will dilute those voters’ power to advocate effectively for issues that affect them.

Moreover, by removing Suffolk and the Isle of Wight from the 3rd District, the Masters will create much less compact 2nd and 3rd Districts. That change will complicate Congressional members’ ability to keep in touch with voters whom they represent, especially by meeting in person with them. For those reasons, I urge the Masters to recommend district boundaries that properly address those issues.

Thank you.

Ralph Michael Smith

While there are many issues with the CD-2 Congressional District in the proposed maps, the problem that stands out the most by far is that the City of Norfolk, or at least the northern portion of it, should be returned to the Second District map, as it is historically, economically and geographically best connected to that District – as opposed to the rural areas that were added to CD-2 in the South of it which have no direct connections.

Please respectfully instruct the Special Masters to re-design the proposed odd-shaped CD-2 map so that the Second District is compact, contiguous, and recognizes communities of interest, with an equal emphasis on the rights of our Tidewater communities.

Thank you for your consideration and respectfully,

Zoe LeMenestrel

 

I am concerned about the potential for losing Elaine Luria as my Congresswoman first and foremost. That being said I am curious how it happens that the redistricting strategically affects 3 women and their positions in office and seems, yet again, favor male politicians. By choice or by accident this is very unfair to women voters. So, I am opposed to the changes as given especially where the second district is concerned. Paula Nees

 

********************************************************

Follow Blue Virginia on Mastodon
Sign up for the Blue Virginia weekly newsletter

Previous articleThursday News: “Coup Dunnit?”; “How the January 6 panel finally exposed Trump’s empire of lies”; “How Joe Manchin and Republicans are wrecking our most important debates”; “Kaine urges Senate to pass Build Back Better bill”
Next articleVA House, Senate Dems Write to VA Supreme Court, Urge Changes to Proposed Redistricting Maps