How new census data could change Vermont’s political landscape

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Election Day is well over a year away. But Vermont political parties this week are already beginning the process of organizing at the grassroots level.

The reorganization process cleans the slate of Democrat, Republican and Progressive party leaders at the local, county and state level, letting fresh faces seek leadership roles or create new town committees.

“The more people we can encourage to join our town committees, the stronger our party is,” said Claire Cummings of the Vermont Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party is preparing with outreach and setting up in-person and virtual meetings, as are Republicans.

“Whether folks like the direction the party is going or they think it should go in a different direction, the way they make that change happen is getting involved in their town organizations,” said Paul Dame of the Vermont Republican Party.

But where to focus party outreach efforts could be a challenge. Big changes to how districts are drawn are looming.

Vermont’s Apportionment Board is drafting new legislative districts in the 150-seat House and 30-seat Senate. They’ll look at census data and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Data shows Essex, Caledonia and Rutland counties’ declined in population, while Chittenden grew by 7%. Chittenden may gain a new seat in the Senate.

“It looks like that seat will come from somewhere down in Rutland County or Bennington County,” said Ed Adrian, who serves on the Legislative Apportionment Board.

The board will draft new districts to make sure voting power is equal. Adrian says most of the board is leaning toward recommending single-seat House districts statewide.

”We try to achieve as much as one-person, one-vote as possible, so that you need to balance the districts so that one doesn’t have too many people in it versus another one so that people are fairly represented,” he said.

That will be decided by the Legislature with a Democrat majority.

But those recommendations are still a few months off, so the parties may not know what the districts will look like until the spring.

“It may mean that more people are running for higher office. It may be that catalyst that shakes everything loose,” Dame said.

“We are of course keeping an eye on those areas like Chittenden where we may need to build up our ranks a little more to protect those seats,” Cummings said.

The Apportionment Board faces a Nov. 29 deadline to submit their district maps to the Legislature.

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