(Host) By the 2012 election, Vermont’s legislative districts will look different. How different depends on a process that is going on right now.
A Legislative Apportionment Board is working to redraw both house and senate districts. This is required by law every 10 years, to reflect new census data.
VPR’s Samantha Fields reports.
(Fields) Historically, reapportionment has meant relatively minor changes to the state’s political map. But this year, the board is split 4-3 on a proposed plan, with the majority in favor of a more dramatic shake up.
Steve Hingtgen is a former progressive legislator. He’s one of the board members in favor of the shake up.
(Hingtgen) "You start from a base of understanding that change must happen. And then the question is, how much change are you comfortable with? And at this point the board has made a decision. Not without some division within the board but it has made the decision to move towards recommending single seat districts throughout the state."
(Fields) That would mean all 150 representatives would come from a single-member district rather than the current mix of one and two seat districts.
Hingtgen says single seat districts are inherently better, because they’re easier and cheaper to campaign in, and because they do not favor incumbents quite as heavily. He also says single seat districts foster stronger relationships between voters and representatives.
But the Democrats on the board – along with the Republican chair, Tom Little – prefer a plan that would make smaller tweaks to the map, and leave a mix of one and two seat districts. Little says voters in two seat districts now don’t seem to have a problem with it.
(Little) "I also tend to be more of an incrementalist in the redistricting work. And to try to identify the districts where population shifts have made it necessary to make adjustments in district lines."
(Fields) But the proposed 150 single-seat plan has majority support on the board, with the other two republicans and both progressives in favor.
The plan would pit incumbents against incumbents in a number of cases. But Hingtgen says that wasn’t a factor.
The board is also working on a plan to reapportion senate seats. Chittenden County is the focal point of that discussion. With six at large senators, it is the largest senate district in the country and its population is growing.
(Little) "One of the simplest things you could do to fix the excess population in the Chittenden district is to send some people from that district into another senate district."
(Fields) According to Little, the proposal for the senate is still in flux, but the house plan should be finalized on Thursday.
The board will then get input from towns before writing its final proposal to be delivered to the legislature by mid August.
The legislature can take it or leave it.
For VPR News, I’m Samantha Fields.