Redistricting After the 1930 Census

population changes in State Senate districts between 2010-2020 had to be smoothed out in the 2021 redistricting
population changes in State Senate districts between 2010-2020 had to be smoothed out in the 2021 redistricting
Source: New York Times, Virginia Court Gets Redistricting Row (October 9, 1932)

After the 1930 Census, Virginia lost a seat in the US House of Representatives. The General Assembly had to redraw boundaries to compress ten districts into just nine. One incumbent would obviously not be re-elected.

The General Assembly adopted its new redistricting map in February, 1932. Boundaries of only three districts were changed. The 10th District was abolished, with most of its territory added to the 7th while three counties were placed in the 6th District. That made it less likely the 7th District would elect another Republican, as it had in 1928 before Democrats recaptured the seat in 1930. The boundaries of the 2nd District were not modified, even though it had elected a Republican in 1928 and re-elected him in 1930. Similarly, the 9th District boundaries were left intact, though Republicans often won seats in the "Fighting Ninth."1

the 10th District (yellow) was eliminated in the initial 1932 redistricting map, later invalidated by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
the 10th District (yellow) was eliminated in the initial 1932 redistricting map, later invalidated by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
Source: Jeffrey B. Lewis, Congressional District Boundaries

Just three weeks before the November election, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals invalidated the boundaries. The 7th District had 337,000 people, while the 8th District had only 184,000 residents. The state's Supreme Court ruled that the boundaries violated Article IV, Section 55 in the state constitution, which at the time applied only to redistricting boundaries of US House of Representatives districts:2

The General Assembly shall by law apportion the State into districts, corresponding with the number of representatives to which it may be entitled in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States; which districts shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable, an equal number of inhabitants.

The two Republicans who initiated the successful lawsuit had filed at-large candidacies for Congress. In the 1932 election, all 24 candidates seeking one of the nine seats in the US House of Representatives ended up having to run as statewide candidates. The nine with the greatest number of votes, statewide, took office in 1933 at the start of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

All nine were Democrats. The one Republican incumbent, Rep. Menalcus "Mank" Lankford, might have won re-election in the 2nd District if votes from just that area had been counted, but in statewide races in the 1930's the Democrats had a solid majority.2

after the 1932 elections, the General Assembly created nine districts for US House of Representatives seats
after the 1932 elections, the General Assembly created nine districts for US House of Representatives seats
Source: Jeffrey B. Lewis, Congressional District Boundaries

Redistricting in 2021

Redistricting in Virginia

Voting in Modern Virginia

Links

References

1. "Lankford, Menalcus," Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress, https://bioguide.congress.gov/search/bio/L000080 (last checked April 12, 2021)
2. "Outside the lines: the curious tale of Virginia's 1932 election," Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 10, 2021, https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/outside-the-lines-the-curious-tale-of-virginias-1932-election/article_be5ed38f-e16d-531c-aee2-301c078793b5.html; "Constitution of Virginia: as amended June 19, 1928, November 7, 1944, May 3, 1945, November 5, 1946, November 2, 1948 and November 7, 1950," Commonwealth of Virginia, 1950, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/101718115 (last checked April 12, 2021)


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