Vt. House advances multi-member district map despite concerns

Published: 1/16/2022 6:47:41 PM
Modified: 1/16/2022 6:46:37 PM

Legislators are moving forward with a plan to maintain Vermont’s multi-member House districts for the next 10 years — at least for now.

By a 32-90 vote Friday, the House rejected an amendment to the reapportionment bill, H.589, that instead would have advanced a single-member map favored by the tri-partisan Legislative Apportionment Board. Reps. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and Casey Toof, R-St. Albans Town, introduced the amendment.

Instead, the House chose to stick with the multi-member district map, as approved earlier this week by the House Government Operations Committee. The House is expected to vote again on the draft plan early next week.

Scheuermann was unable to attend Friday afternoon’s debate on the remote House floor, but Toof read comments on her behalf bemoaning the multi-member map, as well as the House committee’s decision to ignore the Legislative Apportionment Board’s recommendation.

“Frankly, I am surprised this kind of amendment is needed to advance the LAB-approved report and map,” Toof quoted Scheuermann as saying. “It is frustrating, Madame Speaker, that your Government Operations Committee has decided to advance a different map — one that was, in fact, taken up by the LAB twice but was denied by a majority of that board.”

Government operations committee members have tried to make clear that votes on the competing proposals are far from final. In a one-of-a-kind legislative process for the House, redistricting proposals require full approval by the House not once, but twice. In between the two votes, the committee can take testimony from any number of stakeholders and lawmakers, and the map can be edited.

Committee members have said that their intent in passing the alternative, multi-member map at this stage of the process is to allow boards of civil authority, citizens and stakeholders to consider both maps. (Boards of civil authority received the single-member map to consider last fall, when it was approved by the LAB.) Rep. Barbara Murphy, I-Fairfax, though, said on the floor that she was concerned that Friday’s vote “puts an endorsement behind one version” of the map. She also favored the single-member map, saying it “serves the Vermonter the best.”

“I think it doesn’t always serve a sitting member — and I speak as someone who, with the majority report, would not be eligible to be a candidate for the majority of my constituents at this moment — but that isn’t what should be important,” she said. “What should be important is that the voice of the citizenry be heard.”

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