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Orange County to see changes with new Vermont redistricting maps

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/7/2022 1:13:17 AM
Modified: 5/7/2022 1:13:29 AM

CORINTH — Vermont’s redrawn district maps will likely shift the political balance in parts of Orange County, according to local state legislators, though most of the Upper Valley landscape remains unchanged.

Vermont’s new state House and Senate district maps, signed into law by Republican Gov. Phil Scott last month, keep most voting districts in Windsor and Orange counties relatively intact, despite some population decline in both counties since the last redistricting.

The 2020 Senate map moves the towns of Bradford, Fairlee and West Fairlee from the Caledonia voting district to the Orange district. Thetford, formerly part of the Orange district, now joins the Windsor district.

Thetford, with a town population of 2,775, raises the Windsor district’s population closer to the ideal number for a three-senator district.

Prior to adding Thetford, Windsor had a district population of 57,753 constituents, more than 5,000 short of the ideal population.

Sen. Allison Clarkson, D-Windsor, a member of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said the committee had considered moving Londonderry, a community of 1,919 residents, before settling on Thetford.

“Thetford fit into the district much better than Londonderry,” Clarkson said. “Thetford is very much a part of the Upper Valley community already, and I welcome Thetford to the Windsor District.”

The House redistricting will greatly change the political landscape in several Orange County communities.

Orange 1, previously a district of two representatives serving Corinth, Vershire, Orange, Washington, Chelsea and Williamstown, is now split into two districts, each with one elected representative.

Corinth, Vershire, Orange and Washington will remain the Orange 1 district, while Williamstown and Chelsea will form the district Orange 3.

The change means the end of a 20-year period in which two representatives served these towns.

The change in representation does not bother Corinth officials, who had advocated for the split to the House Redistricting Committing, Corinth Selectboard Chair Rick Cawley said.

“We just feel that one representative is more democratic,” Cawley said, noting that the district had only one representative prior to the redistricting in 2002.

Cawley said that sharing a district with Williamstown was difficult for Corinth, given the two communities' cultural differences and geographic separation, with a 24-mile driving distance between the towns.

“It didn’t make sense to us because we weren’t culturally connected, yet their population was 40% of the voting district,” Cawley said.

Cawley, as well as the district’s current representatives, acknowledged that Williamstown’s population is more conservative than some of the other communities in the former district, which tended to favor Republican candidates during state elections.

Rep. Rodney Graham, R-Williamstown, said the redistricting will “make it harder” for Republican candidates to win in either redrawn district, particularly in the redrawn Orange 1.

Graham said he does not intend to run for the new district seat.

“The redistricting didn’t help,” Graham said, “but I have served the seat for eight years and it’s just time for someone else.”

Rep. Samantha Lefebvre, R-Orange, said she plans to run for the redrawn Orange-1 seat in November. Lefebvre, who served on the House redistricting committee, called the splitting of the district “bittersweet.”

While watching the district separate personally felt heartbreaking, Lefebvre is happy that Corinth feels satisfied by the result.

“This redistricting wasn’t about me, but what is best for our towns for the next 10 years,” Lefebvre said.

Lefebvre, who supported the approved district map, said she initially fought to keep the district together, including alternative proposals. Those alternatives either proved not feasible or did not garner backing.

While understanding Corinth’s reasons for wanting a split, Lefebvre said she does believe political differences or physical separation are deterrents to being a good representative.

Lefebvre, a self-described fiscal conservative, stressed the importance of listening to all constituents and understanding multiple perspectives to legislative matters.

In regard to geographical distances, Lefebvre said that most of her communication with constituents is by phone or email.

“I don’t think physical distance matters as much as knowing about the communities where people live,” Lefebvre said.

Redistricting, a redrawing of Vermont’s political maps based on changes in local populations, is completed once per decade, using U.S. Census data to allocate the state’s 30 senators and 150 representatives across 643,077 residents.

The process, in accordance with the “one person, one vote” standard laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court, aims to create equitably sized legislative districts. In Vermont, the ideal district population is 4,287 constituents per House representative and 21,436 constituents per senator.

The process of redrawing districts “is a complicated puzzle,” Clarkson said. “Our intent is to create an equity of representation while keeping the districts as intact as possible.”

Patrick Adrian can be reached at pfadrian25@gmail.com.




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