The House of Delegates redistricting plan unveiled Tuesday keeps Henry County split between three districts — the 14th and 16th, as it has been for the past decade, and the newly drawn 9th District.
It also proposes to move the 10th District, which now contains western Henry County and is represented by Democratic Del. Ward Armstrong, to Loudoun County in Northern Virginia to accommodate population growth there.
Western Henry County would move from the 10th to the 16th District, which now is represented by Republican Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County.
By law, all district lines for local, state and national elections must be redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census is completed to ensure districts have similar populations. Because the state’s population has increased since 2000, legislative districts must be increased to about 80,000 people, compared with 70,000 in the past decade.
A general description of the proposals for the local districts follows.
• Ninth District: This has been redrawn to include western Henry County, roughly following U.S. 220 from north to south; Patrick County; and Franklin County, except an area in the top center of the county around Wirtz and Red Valley.
The 9th District now is represented by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill. The district would lose its Pittsylvania County precincts, which would shift to the 16th House District.
• Sixteenth District: This would include the northeast quadrant of Henry County, including Collinsville, Figsboro and Oak Level; all of the city of Martinsville; and most of the top two-thirds of Pittsylvania County.
Currently, it has less of Henry County and four of the six Martinsville precincts. The other two city precincts now are in the 10th District.
• Fourteenth District: This district would include Chatmoss, Ridgeway and the southeastern quadrant of Henry County; the city of Danville; and southern Pittsylvania County. It now is represented by Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville.
Armstrong called the House plan the “byproduct of ... backroom deals done without any public input” and said it shows the problem with partisan redistricting.
“It’s what I predicted. I’ve been hearing rumors for at least several weeks that the district was going to be split up in order to get rid of Ward Armstrong,” said Armstrong, the House minority leader. “I’ve angered the big boys — the electric utilities, the telephone industry ... in speaking out against Republicans when they refused to protect the average citizen, which is what’s been done for the past two years. It’s no wonder they want to get rid of Ward Armstrong.”
But that will not come without a fight, he said.
“I intend to run for the House of Delegates,” said Armstrong, a 10-term incumbent.
In his first years in the House, Armstrong represented the Swansonville, Whitmell and Mt. Hermon Fire Station precincts in Pittsylvania County.
“It’s not impossible, not by any means,” he said of his chances of winning an election there.
If he does not win, it means Henry County and Martinsville’s nearest representative will live 40 miles away, Armstrong said.
“It’s going to be interesting” to run against Armstrong, Merricks said Tuesday. “We’re two different people. Voters, as they always do, will pick whoever they feel is better representation. ... There’s not much I can say. I didn’t have a choice.”
Merricks said he plans to analyze the proposed districts in the coming days but “at first blush, some things look good, some look bad.”
Among the good things is that he would gain more of Henry County rather than going in the other direction to add Halifax or Campbell counties, he said. Among the bad things is that he would lose some areas of southeastern Pittsylvania County to Marshall.
“Those were people I know, people I come in contact with every day,” he added.
Detailed information about changes affecting the 20th Senatorial District was not available Tuesday.
The General Assembly will review the redistricting plans when legislators reconvene April 4. Armstrong said a vote is likely that day and because the plans were drawn by the majority parties in each chamber, they are expected to pass.
Gov. Bob McDonnell must approve them, and then the plans must go to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval. That is required because Virginia falls under the Voting Rights Act.