By Staff Writer
Back in 2011, a team of William & Mary Law students won first place in the Governor/Commission Division for the U.S. Congressional Map category in the Virginia Redistricting Competition. The project may have started merely as an experiment to see whether students might be able to create useful maps using new redistricting software and real data on Virginia voters. But now that a federal court has declared Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District unconstitutional, the map designed by William & Mary students has taken on a whole new level of importance in the drawing of fair and just Congressional districts in Virginia.
In the weeks since the decision, several observers have rekindled interest in the William & Mary map which has several beneficial elements. First, the majority minority population in District 3 is at 50.74% voting age population (or VAP), a fix for the packing problem the federal district court so disliked. The map also alleviates the compactness problem the old District 3 suffered. Instead of stretching from Norfolk to Richmond, the William & Mary map instead encompasses the counties to the west of Norfolk and Portsmouth and circles in the southern border of the state to incudes Petersburg and Hopewell. This new district is more compact and is clearly contiguous, only relying on water contiguity in one area that includes bridge and tunnel crossings.
Nicholas Mueller, JD ’12 drafted the winning congressional map picuted above. Meredith McCoy JD ’12 drafted the map’s accompanying narrative, available here. The other members of the 2011 William & Mary Law School redistricting team included Brian Cannon J.D. ’11, Alexander Grout J.D. ’12, John Holden J.D. ’12, Rebekah Miller J.D. ’12, Peter Newman J.D. ’13, Samuel Robinson J.D. ’11, and Brian Rothenberg J.D. ’13. Professor Rebecca Green served as the group’s faculty advisor.
Update 11/3: Also, see Mueller’s recent Op-Ed on gerrymandering in the Times Dispatch here: http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/their-opinion/columnists-blogs/guest-columnists/mueller-we-must-end-political-gerrymandering/article_1faa2dc4-09dc-5c78-88e1-462f82be2a4c.html