In a process likely to be repeated in legislative districts across the state, the Montpelier Board of Civil Authority voted last night, 13-3, to reject the proposal of the Legislative Apportionment Board to split the two-member Montpelier House district into two single-member districts.
As we've previously reported, reapportionment is a legislative football again this year, and the board initially assigned to the task took the radical step of eliminating every one of the forty-some two-member House districts, splitting them into smaller single-member districts.
Not surprising, right? If your party is the minority party in the legislature (or parties, since we're talking about both the Republicans and the Progressives) you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by screwing around with the seats held by Democrats, which is most of them.
Only it led to some peculiar decisions. For instance, Montpelier has been represented by two Democrats since 1984, and our two current representatives are Warren Kitzmiller and Mary Hooper. The only tricky thing is that Warren and Mary live on the same street, about half a mile apart, so in order to preserve incumbency, one of the legislatively permitted considerations, the line drawn by the apportionment board has a peculiar jog to avoid putting Warren and Mary in the same district and making them run against each other.
In last night's discussion the Board of Civil Authority considered all the arguments, including the idea that a smaller district is more democratic because each voter is one of only 4,000 residents of a district as opposed to 8,000 in a two-member district, and that a smaller district creates lower barriers to electoral participation, but the Board was ultimately persuaded by the homogeneous nature of Montpelier's population and the benefits of having two representatives, each of whom represents the entire city.
Look for this to be repeated across the state as local boards of civil authority meet to comply with the July 31 reporting deadling.