County faces tight deadlines for redistricting

Must complete the process by Dec. 31.

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors has just weeks to decide on what the country’s local electoral districts will look like for the next decade

Under Virginia law, localities must redistrict every ten years during the year ending in one (2021 in this case), using the most recent census numbers.

Decennial census data is usually available by April of the redistricting year, giving localities ample time to complete the process. But in 2020, the pandemic and other issues forced te U.S. Census Bureau to delay the results by 120 days past the April deadline.

Assistant County Administrator Kelly Belanger Harris said the 2020 Census information finally arrived in September, with critical data from the state’s Department of Legislative Services (DLS) coming the first week of October.

This leaves around ten weeks for the supervisors to analyze the data, hold community meetings and public hearings, finalize the district maps and hold their final vote before the state’s Dec. 31 deadline.


The 2020 Census found that Fluvanna’s population grew a modest six percent over the past decade.

By district, the population grew in Palmyra, Rivanna, and Cunningham, and declined in Columbia and Fork Union.

State law requires localities to design districts that are “compact and contiguous,” roughly equal in population, and show no racial bias.

Supervisors do have some freedom in deciding how to accomplish those goals. They could, for example, try to shift the boundaries of the five existing districts so each has approximately 5,258 residents.

Or they could create more districts.

During informal discussions at their Oct.  meeting, they indicated that they might be willing to move to six or seven districts.

“Seven, to me, gives a more appropriate representation of every facet of the county,” said Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia). That would work out to one supervisor for every 3.756 residents.

Adding two seats would expand the size of the Board of Supervisors — and the School Board — by 40 percent.


At the Oct. 6 meeting Harris walked through a tentative time frame for the coming weeks.

The Redistricting Committee, composed of Supervisors Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) and Donald Weaver (Cunningham), planned to discuss next steps before the Oct. 20 board meeting.

A work session on redistricting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center on James Madison Highway.

County staff has been tasked with taking census data and putting it into a mapping program. From there, they can start creating potential maps of five, six, and seven districts to act as a starting point for further debate.

Supervisors plan on holding at least one informational meeting for the community, and members of the public will be able to attend work sessions and meetings. If everything stays on track, supervisors should vote on the finalized plan by Dec. 15.


That’s when things could get even more complicated.

Redistricting usually takes place in the spring. If new districts are created, candidates have time to run for new seats.

This time around, supervisors will be redrawing district lines during election season.

Sheridan and O’Brien are running uncontested, and two Cunningham candidates are vying to replace Weaver, who announced his retirement earlier this year. It’s not clear what their districts are going to look like by the time their new terms begin on Jan. 1, 2022.

There is also little guidance on how to add new members if new seats are created.

“This is so mysterious,” said County Attorney Fred Payne. “There are so many questions open that I think you face some very difficult choices.”


The Census found that the population of Fluvanna County grew a modest six percent over the last decade, climbing from 25,691 in 2010 to 27,249 in 2020. Each household has an average of 2.99 residents.

By district, this is how each county changed in population:


  2010 2020 +      /  –
Palmyra 5,355 6,240 +885
Rivanna 5,270 5,340 +70
Cunningham 5,229 5,632 +403
Fork Union 5,052 4,858 -194
Columbia 5,187 4,216 -971


The Census counted 1,037 inmates at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in 2020. This population is not included in the numbers above, as they are not technically residents of the county.  Approximately 90 inmates in other state correctional facilities who were residents of Fluvanna prior to incarceration were added to the county totals.

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