By Stefanie Jackson – The Northampton County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing Nov. 23 and voted to approve an ordinance re-establishing voting districts based on data collected during the 2020 U.S. Census.
Northampton County has five voting districts and one supervisor representing each district:
- District 1, including Cape Charles, Supervisor John Coker
- District 2, including Cheriton, Supervisor David Fauber
- District 3, including Nassawadox, Supervisor Oliver Bennett
- District 4, including Eastville, Chairman Dixon Leatherbury
- District 5, including Exmore, Vice Chair Betsy Mapp
Based on the census, the population of each Northampton County voting district is approximately 2,400 to 2,500; District 4 is the least populated and District 3 is the most populated.
Some district areas shrank as others expanded: Nassawadox’s district picked up part of Exmore’s district, Eastville’s district gained a portion of Cheriton’s district, and Cheriton’s district gained about three sections of Cape Charles’ district.
No citizen spoke during the public hearing, but Mapp said that some residences of citizens who voted for her in District 5 now belong to District 3, Bennett’s district, and those citizens won’t get the opportunity to vote for supervisor for another four years – a total of six years since they last voted for supervisor.
The issue stems from Northampton supervisors’ staggered terms – District 5 voted for Mapp two years ago, but District 3 re-elected Bennett this year.
“I wonder, is that a topic of concern? … It seems to be a disservice to those citizens who don’t really have much of a say,” Mapp said.
Planner Kelley Lewis Parks said she and Voter Registrar Terry Flynn had not discussed the topic.
Mapp noted she will lose about 180 voters – everyone living in Wardtown and two new subdivisions on Occohannock Neck Road.
“You can have them back. I don’t have any problem with that,” Bennett remarked.
But Mapp’s main concern was that it seemed unfair that some citizens will not be able to vote again for supervisor four years after they last voted.
She clarified that she didn’t want to change the voting district map but raise awareness of the issue.
“These are kind of lucky voters because they have two people that they can go to with their issues – the one they may have voted for and the one they may vote for,” Flynn said.
“People from all different districts call me anyway, all the time,” Mapp added.
There was another question about citizens living in redistricted areas and if the ordinance permitted them to keep their supervisors until the end of the supervisors’ current terms. Parks said no, but supervisors living in redistricted areas will retain their seats until the end of their current terms.
Mapp made a motion to approve the second draft of the ordinance to establish Northampton County’s five voting districts. (The first and second drafts proposed the same boundaries, but the second draft used language that supervisors deemed easier to understand.)
Bennett declined to second the motion and said he intended to vote against it because neither Fauber nor Coker were present and would not have the opportunity to voice their approval or disapproval of the changes to their respective voting districts.
Leatherbury seconded the motion and it passed in a 2-1 vote, with Bennett opposed.
The ordinance was effective immediately, and any voters whose districts have changed must be notified by the voter registrar no later than 15 before the next election.
The polling places established by the ordinance are:
- District 1, Trinity United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 410 Tazewell Ave., Cape Charles
- District 2, Cheriton United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 21309 South Bayside Road, Cheriton
- District 3, Northampton Fire & Rescue Station, 10239 Pine Ave., Nassawadox
- District 4, Johnson’s United Methodist Church Social Hall, 11175 Bayside Road, Machipongo
- District 5, Exmore Fire Station, 3356 Main St., Exmore.