Rutland City officials plan to redistrict following population decline

Rutland City Hall. Photo by Emma Cotton/VTDigger

RUTLAND — After a decade of population decline, Rutland City officials are beginning a conversation about redrawing the lines of its political districts, which would change voting locations for many city residents. 

“Some serious adjustments are going to have to be made,” said state Rep. William Notte, D-Rutland, who represents Ward 4. 

The state’s Legislative Apportionment Board redraws House and Senate districts every 10 years, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, to ensure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s one person-one vote standard. State board members ultimately decide how the House districts are redrawn in Rutland and elsewhere, but Notte is beginning to meet with city officials in hopes that they’ll have a say. 

“At the end of the day, of course, it’s the Legislature will have the final stamp of approval,” Notte said. “So it’s a matter of seeing what works down here, and then making certain that, if we have an option that we think stands above the others, that we bang the drum loudly for it.”

Districts around the state are facing similar challenges, according to a map from the Secretary of State’s office, and officials are hurrying to determine how to best redraw district lines while waiting for official 2020 census data, which won’t be released until mid-August. 

Based on preliminary census numbers, Notte expects the city to continue to have four state representatives, but will need to significantly alter the shape and size of the districts, which determine where residents go to vote, the Rutland Herald first reported

Ideally, every House district in Vermont would contain exactly the same number of residents. Typically, the apportionment board divides Vermont’s population by 150 — the number of representatives in the Vermont House. 

The state allows districts to deviate from that amount by no more than 10%. One of Rutland’s districts, Ward 2, in the southeast part of the city, is “one of the most out of balance in the state,” by 17%, Notte said. Ward 3 deviates by 11%. 

“There’s no way we are going to get balance and get all of our Rutland City districts in a legally acceptable limit without doing some significant shifting of households and populations,” he said. 

Unless the city reverses the overall population decline, it will likely shrink to three representatives in another decades’ time. 

Notte, who said he’s been talking with other officials privately about the matter, planned to present possible changes to the Board of Aldermen on Monday night. He’s heard several preliminary options for redistricting. One involves shifting all four districts until the appropriate balances are found. 

“Theoretically, they could all be at minus 9% and just slide under what’s legally viable,” Notte said. “That would require some huge shifts in lines and quite a bit of change. But mathematically, it may be…

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