By Zach Armstrong
PRINCE GEORGE, Va -- The Prince George Board of Supervisors voted for the county to continue to be represented by two at-large districts as opposed to five single-member districts for county representation after holding a public hearing on the matter at their Sept. 28 meeting.
The vote was 4-1 with board members Carmichael, Hunter, Waymack and Webb in favor and Chairman Floyd Brown dissenting.
Virginia code permits counties to change to magisterial districts, change boundaries of districts, change the name of districts and decrease the number of districts. After receiving the results of the 2020 consensus, Prince George County must redistrict in 2021. The resolution voted on would have given direction to county staff as they begin the redistricting process to look at redistricting into five rather than the current two.
Prince George County currently operates under a multi-member, or at-large, district system with five members split among two voting districts for representation on the Board of Supervisors and the county school board. District 1 represents the Rives and Templeton parts of the county while District 2 represents the Blackwater, Bland and Brandon parts.
One resident in favor of the change stated, “there are 95 counties in Virginia and not one of those 95, with the exception of Prince George, has multi-members electoral districts. What does that suggest? Do these counties know something that our residents don’t know?”
The resident continued to illustrate his point by stating, “the current multi-member districts deludes value by vote count of residents in District 1, as a resident of District 1 I get to vote for two people to represent me, a friend of mine who lives in District 2 gets to vote for three people to represent him, this gives him a vote advantage,”
District 2 Supervisor T. J. Webb expressed his opposition to the change stating “with the growth were seeing, we could possibly flip from a 3-2 from District 2 to 1 to the other way around … citizens in this county have the opportunity every 4 years, if you don't like your representation, that's the time to speak up and put somebody in that you respect,”
District 1 Supervisor Alan Carmichael expressed opposition stating, “when I first got elected in 2008, I thought there might be some unfairness that I'd be going against with three votes for District 2 and I really found there was no such unfairness and I would suggest anyone planning on running that they have the interest of the entire county when you make decisions,”
District 2 Supervisor Donald Hunter expressed opposition stating, “votes from us are either 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2 and if you look, the 3-2 votes are never District 1 against District 2. It’s usually some difference in opinion or thought,”
Chairman of the Board Floyd Brown was the only member who was in favor of the resolution, stating “first of all we’ve got to take ourselves out of it. I don’t think there is anybody tonight who has said that the members have stood in District 1 or District 2 and voted on topics straight on district boundaries … I see challenges on the four years I've been on this board I think are related to not having single-members districts,”
“Mr. Carmichael and I, were in District 1, there are probably times people will call me and bring up a topic that I failed to discuss with Carmichael, how do you have two representatives and only 50% know about the request, with single-member districts I see people having one representative to call making sure their message is heard,” said Brown.
“For elections, our districts are so big that I have seen people focus on polling stations with the biggest number of votes. If you only focus on one precinct, to me you still may cover the whole county, but we can’t say we don't know where most of the votes are,” said Brown.