This fall, Virginia’s entire 100-member House of Delegates is up for election, and Democrats have a good chance to turn their 51-49 deficit into their first majority in 20 years. Importantly, this will be the first election held under a new court-ordered map that will be used in place of the previous GOP gerrymander, which federal judges struck down part of for discriminating against black voters.
There's still a chance that the Supreme Court could yet interfere, but with the candidate filing deadline now passed, that looks increasingly unlikely. So assuming the new map holds up, just how much better for Team Blue is this new map than the old one?
Under the old lines, which were last used in 2017, Hillary Clinton carried 51 of 100 seats, despite defeating Donald Trump statewide 50-45. Republicans represented three of those 51 Clinton seats, while Democrats held a lone Trump seat. Under the new map, by contrast, Clinton won 56 districts. Republicans now sit in seven seats Clinton won, while the one Trump seat occupied by a Democrat now would have gone for Clinton.
These statistics, however, are by no means the only way to measure how much the changes help Democrats. One way to look a little deeper is to sort each seat by Clinton’s margin of victory over Trump and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because Virginia has an even number of seats, we average the presidential margin for the middle two seats to come up with the median.
Under the old state House map, the median seat backed Clinton 48-46, about 3 points to the right of her statewide win. In other words, to win a majority under the prior lines, Democrats would have had to win either every single Clinton seat or some of the districts carried by Trump even though Clinton won the state, a sign of the GOP’s gerrymander. But under the new map, the median seat supported Clinton 50-45, which is identical to her statewide margin of victory and suggests the gerrymander's statewide impact has now been erased.
This hardly guarantees Old Dominion Democrats will win the majority, of course, especially given the cavalcade of misery surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who’ve steadfastly refused to resign in the face of scandal despite widespread calls from fellow Democrats that they quit. However, these statistics do indicate that, should state House Democrats win more votes than Republicans across the state, they’ll stand a good chance of taking control of the chamber, unlike what happened in 2017.
It’s also important to note that much of Virginia’s map remains unaltered. Only 25 districts were affected: those where the courts found that Republicans had unconstitutionally diluted the power of black voters, as well as neighboring seats that had to change to accommodate the necessary fixes. It’s time to put these under the microscope.
To that end, we’ve put together a chart that compares the 2016 presidential results in each redrawn seat under the new map and the old map—and overall, the news is very bad for Republicans. Of the nine altered GOP seats, fully eight became bluer, and four even flipped from Trump to Clinton.
The most dramatic shift, as it happens, serves to undermine House Speaker Kirk Cox. Cox’s old HD-66 backed Trump 59-37, but the new version of the seat, which is located in the Richmond suburbs, supported Clinton 50-46.
The Hampton Roads area is the site of the real bloodbath, though. Republican Del. Chris Jones just saw his HD-76 transform from a 52-44 Trump seat to a 56-40 Clinton district, and it’s the same story for another Hampton Roads Republican, Del. Chris Stolle in HD-83, who watched his seat go from 51-44 Trump to 50-45 Clinton. And HD-91—now an open seat thanks to Del. Gordon Helsel’s retirement—moved from 53-42 Trump to 50-45 Clinton.
Finally, there’s Del. David Yancey, who infamously won re-election in 2017 in a tie-breaker that may have never happened if 26 voters hadn't been given ballots for the wrong district. Yancey’s old HD-94 in Newport News supported Clinton 50-44, but the new one backed her 56-39. Shelly Simonds, the Democrat who got the raw deal two years ago, is running again.
Few Democrats, meanwhile, were disadvantaged by redistricting. Twelve of the 16 affected Democratic districts became redder, but that’s actually good news, because most were (and remain) solidly blue, and those shifts allowed the GOP’s seats to become bluer.
The biggest swing to the right was in Del. Cliff Hayes’s HD-77 in Chesapeake, which moved from a 73-24 margin for Clinton to a still-formidable 60-35. Still, there are a few Democrats worth keeping an eye on. Del. Lashrecse Aird saw her seat move from 67-30 Clinton to 55-42, while Del. Michael Mullin’s seat went from 57-38 Clinton to 52-42. Still, both districts are blue enough that Democrats should be able to keep them if they’re even within striking distance of the majority.
Redistricting even may help Democrats keep their most vulnerable seat. Del. Cheryl Turpin represents Virginia Beach’s HD-85, which is that one Trump seat held by Team Blue we mentioned at the outset. Turpin is leaving to run for the state Senate, but her seat moved from 47.1-46.5 Trump to 48.1-45.6 Clinton. It’s still far from safely blue, but that shift could make all the difference.
For the rest of our presidential results by legislative district, you can find our master list of states here, and you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.