In a split vote, James City County supervisors on Tuesday voted against a redistricting resolution that called for county staff to be responsible for developing any local redistricting plan.
By a 3-2 vote, chairman Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown District), Michael Hipple (Powhatan District) and Sue Sadler (Stonehouse District) voted against the resolution. John McGlennon (Roberts District), who asked county staff to prepare the resolution, and vice chair Ruth Larson (Berkeley District) voted in favor.
“I'm not sure trying to fix something that may not necessarily be broken is the answer," Sadler said.
While the three supervisors voting against the resolution praised current county staff, Hipple said he did not want county staff to be in the driver's seat on redistricting. Onizuk said he had significant concerns about the resolution, even though he said he liked the concept of having fair districts.
"Staff could not only have an undercurrent of a partisan agenda but it could be a particular agenda of ousting your bosses that you don’t like," Onizuk said, and added, "I think putting staff in this position, even if we give them direction, can put them in precarious position."
Larson, in supporting the resolution, said "I do believe that this is a nonpartisan issue and it has the backing of a lot of people."
During a public hearing earlier in the evening, three people spoke in favor of the resolution.
The resolution specified that the board of supervisors supported redistricting reform in Virginia and James City County for congressional districts, state legislative districts and local election districts.
The resolution also stated there should be transparent and nonpartisan districting, and stated that reform is necessasry "to eliminate the conflict of interest that allows General Assembly and board of supervisors members to pick their voters.
The resolution also called for excluding political data from the districting process.
In addition to including county staff in developing a local redistricting plan, the resolution also said supervisors would be committed to nonpartisan districting for local election districts which elect supervisors and school board members.