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Scott Approves New Districts for the Vermont Legislature


The Vermont Statehouse - BY MATTHEW ROY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • By Matthew Roy ©️ Seven Days
  • The Vermont Statehouse
Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday signed a bill creating new state legislative districts that will be in place for the upcoming November election and for a decade thereafter.

The new districts, based on the most recent census data, are meant to better reflect the demographic changes in the state during the last decade.

“Overall the population trends over the last 10 years indicated the northwest part of  Vermont has grown significantly in population,” Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) told his colleagues last month as they voted on the new district maps. “Every other Senate district has lost population.”

That shift means Chittenden County’s already considerable legislative influence will only grow. Instead of six senators, the state’s most populous county will now have seven.

The districts they’re elected from will change as well. Currently, all six Chittenden County senators represent the whole county. Under the new system, there will be three separate Senate districts in Chittenden County: two with three members each and one with a single senator.

The central Chittenden district will have three senators representing the north part of Burlington, Winooski, the southern part of Colchester and most of Essex.

The southeast Chittenden district will have three senators representing the southern part of Burlington, South Burlington, Shelburne, Charlotte, Hinesburg, Bolton, Williston, Jericho and Underhill.

Finally, the north Chittenden district will include the towns of Milton, Westford and part of Essex, as well as the Franklin County town of Fairfax.

Another notable change in the 30-member Senate is that Stowe, which is part of Lamoille County, was shifted south into the three-member Washington County Senate district.

That didn’t go over so well with some senators. Sen. Andrew Perchlik (D/P - Washington), as resident of Montpelier, argued against including the Lamoille County ski-mecca in his district. He said that would make it tougher for Montpelier-area politicians to effectively represent Stowe residents 22 miles to the northwest. Stowe has historically been a Republican stronghold, though that has eroded in recent  years.

Perchlik, however, got little sympathy from Sen. Bobby Starr, a Democrat from the sprawling and thinly populated Essex-Orleans district.

“This is supposed to be for the citizens of the state and not for our convenience,” Starr chided him last month.

Starr noted that he has driven more than 60 miles from his home in Troy to Waterford for more than 20 years.

All told, there will be 16 Senate districts instead of 13. That includes five three-member districts, four two-member districts and seven single-member districts. The new Senate map is here.

The House, for its part, rejected the Legislative Apportionment Board’s calls to create 150 single-seat districts. Instead, deferring to feedback from towns that didn’t want their communities split, the House stuck with a combination of two-member and single-member districts.

The House attempted to ensure that each future member represents as close to 4,287 residents as possible. The resulting 109 House districts include 68 with one member and 41 with two.

The new districts will determine who can begin running for upcoming primary elections in August.

Outgoing Secretary of State Jim Condos and his chief deputy, Chris Winters, have both called for reform to the way Vermont redraws its districts, expressing support for a simpler system that would take the decision making out of the hands of the politicians affected by the once-a-decade changes.