Currently, Vermont’s state legislative districts are drawn by the legislature and are subject to gubernatorial veto. Due to population, Vermont is granted only one congressional representative. Further, a seven-member advisory board commission, the Vermont Apportionment Board, recommends maps to the legislature, which can choose to adopt, modify, or disregard their proposals. The Apportionment Board is composed of a member of each of the state’s political parties (each qualifying party having had “at least three state legislators for six of the previous 10 years”80) appointed by the governor. The party chairs then each select an additional member, and the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court appoints the commission’s chair. Of note, commissioners cannot be employees or members of the state legislature.
This cycle, a new law was in effect that limited state Senate districts to three-member districts. Previously, the number of state Senate district representatives were unlimited due to the fact that senate maps have been drawn to closely follow county lines. Chittenden County district previously held six members, as it is the most populous county in the state. During this cycle, its senate district was split into three districts to achieve population equality.
State requirements mandate that legislative districts be contiguous, compact, and “adhere to county and other political subdivision boundaries, except where necessary to comply with other legal requirements,” and respect “patterns of geography, social interaction, trade, political ties, and common interests.
Community of Interest Story
State redistricting law states that districts must respect “patterns of geography, social interaction, trade, political ties, and common interests.”82 Advocates have found that this was not always adhered to this cycle. In 2012, community organizers worked diligently to ensure that the town of Huntington was kept together with the school district and county (Chittenden) it is zoned with. Unfortunately, it was not successful, and residents tried again to advocate for this change in 2021. Once again, Huntington was separated from its county and school district.
Overall State Grade: B
Public access was adequate: Advocates found that the state redistricting process allowed the public to participate. The redistricting advisory board conducted public meetings, took public comments, and then produced two sets of maps for consideration (one from the majority of board members and the other from the minority of board members). On top of seeking feedback from the general public, the board also welcomed input from the local Boards of Civil Authority regarding any concerns over the splitting of municipalities.
- Vermont should retain the single and double-member state house system: Currently, Vermont’s state house districts are a mix of single and double-member districts; those with two members contain a population of roughly 8,000, and those with one member contain a population of roughly 4,000. This cycle, there was a renewed effort to advocate for transitioning to smaller, entirely single-member districts. However, advocates feel that smaller districts require a level of detail that leads to the splitting of cities and is conducive to gerrymandering; drawing larger districts prevents this.
- An independent redistricting commission should be established: Despite the relative success and satisfaction with this cycle’s redistricting results, studies have found that independent redistricting commissions, taking the power of drawing lines away from the legislature, produce maps that are more competitive, fair, and less partisan than those drawn by state legislatures. While Vermont does have an advisory commission, ultimately, the power to select maps is currently in the legislature’s hands.