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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

Vermont has only one congressional district.

Vermont’s state legislative lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

A seven-member advisory commission (the Vermont Apportionment Board) assists this process. The Governor chooses one commissioner from each political party with at least 3 state legislators for six of the previous ten years (Democrats, Republicans, and Progressives), each of those parties’ state committee chair chooses an additional commissioner, and the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court chooses a special master to be chair. No commissioner may be a member or employee of the state legislature. Current members are here. [17 Vt. Stat. § 1904] This commission recommends state legislative plans to the legislature, which may adopt, modify, or ignore the commission’s proposals.

In the 2010 cycle, Vermont’s legislature passed a state legislative plan (H.789) on Apr. 30, 2012, which was signed on May 1, 2012.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

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Plan Status:

Party Control:
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Institution

Vermont has only one congressional district.

Vermont’s state legislative lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

Since 1965, Vermont statutes have provided for a seven-member advisory commission (the Vermont Apportionment Board) to assist this process. The Governor chooses one commissioner from each political party with at least 3 state legislators for six of the previous ten years (Democrats, Republicans, and Progressives), each of those parties’ state committee chair chooses an additional commissioner, and the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court chooses a special master to be chair. No commissioner may be a member or employee of the state legislature. Current members are here. [17 Vt. Stat. § 1904] This commission recommends state legislative plans to the legislature, which may adopt, modify, or ignore the commission’s proposals.  The legislature may also alter this commission by statute.

The Vermont Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction to challenge a redistricting plan in state court; the legislature may alter this provision by statute.  The legislature must be given a first opportunity to correct any legal infirmity. [17 Vt. Stat. § 1909]

Timing

The advisory commission must produce a proposed plan by July 1, 2021; towns and cities may make suggestions with respect to internal splits until Aug. 1, 2021, and the advisory commission must produce a final recommended plan by Aug. 15, 2021. The above deadlines may all be amended by statute. [17 Vt. Stat. §§ 1905-1907]

Once the commission produces a suggested plan, the legislature may then adopt, modify, or ignore the commission’s proposal. State statutes provide that final plans should be passed during the biennial session after the census. The 2021 session began on Jan. 6, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on May 15, 2021; 2022 session dates have not yet been announced.  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by May 26, 2022.  [17 Vt. Stat. §§ 1903, 2356]

Vermont statutes tie the drawing of state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade, though these ties may also be altered by statute. [17 Vt. Stat. §§ 19031907]

Public input

The advisory commission has held a few meetings in 2020, archived here.  The calendar of future meetings is here.

Criteria

Like all states, Vermont must comply with constitutional equal population requirements; state statutes further ask that state legislative districts involve “minimum percentages of deviation.”  [17 Vt. Stat. § 1903]

Vermont must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

Vermont law further requires that state legislative districts be, “insofar as practicable,” contiguous and geographically compact, and that they adhere to county and other political subdivision boundaries, except where necessary to comply with other legal requirements. By statute, Vermont districts should also recognize and maintain “patterns of geography, social interaction, trade, political ties, and common interests.” Legislative districts may also be drawn as multimember districts, with a maximum of three Senators per state Senate district and a maximum of two Representatives per state House district. These statutory standards may be modified by the legislature.  [Vt. Const. ch. II, §§ 13, 18; 17 Vt. Stat. §§ 1891a19031906a, 1906c, 1907]

2010 cycle

Vermont’s legislature passed a state legislative plan (H.789) on Apr. 30, 2012, which was signed on May 1, 2012.

It does not appear that this plan was challenged in court.

2000 cycle

Vermont’s legislature passed a state legislative plan (H.671), which was signed on June 27, 2002.

The plan was challenged in state court, and upheld. [In re Apportionment of Towns of Woodbury and Worcester, 861 A.2d 1117 (Vt. 2004)]