Redistricting Q & A:
You might have seen some stories in the paper recently about the city of Norfolk’s
redistricting plan. What’s it all about? Here’s some information that may be helpful.
The city of Norfolk operates under a council-manager form of government. The citizens
elect a city council and the council hires a city manager.
The city council has eight members. The mayor, who is elected at large, and seven are
elected representatives from designated wards.
The wards are determined first on racial demographics, based on information from the
most recent national census.
There are two types of wards, wards and superwards.
Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 divide Norfolk’s population into segments of approximately
20%. Two of the five wards have a population where approximately 62% or more
of the voters are African-Americans. Referred to as “safe seats,” African-
Americans have been elected to represent those two wards since the ward
system was established in 1992. The remaining three wards have white
majorities and have always elected white representatives.
Wards 6 and 7 are considered superwards. These two wards essentially divide
the city in half. Ward 6, which covers most of the west side of Norfolk, is
predominantly white. Ward 7 is predominantly black.
These eight individuals currently serve as the elected representatives for Norfolk’s city
Why does Norfolk have a ward system?
In 1991, after a series of court cases that lasted eight years, a federal court ruled that
Norfolk’s at-large system for electing city council members was discriminatory and
violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ward system, approved and overseen by the
Justice Department is how the city complies with the court order.
Has the city’s system for electing city council been the same since the court
No, every ten years, after the national census is completed, the city must review the
ward system, make adjustments and submit the plan to the Department of Justice for
approval. And several years ago, after receiving approval from the state legislature and
the Justice Department, the city added an eighth member to council, a mayor elected at
The census was held last year. Is that why Norfolk is talking about redistricting
Yes. It is time for Norfolk to review the ward system and submit a plan to the Justice
Department for review.
And there are several ideas being discussed by both the city’s leadership and citizens.
One plan is being called, “The Pretlow Plan or Compromise Plan”. It reflects minor
changes in the current ward populations and only affects Wards 1 and 5 which have to
shift population. This plan has been generally accepted by City Council because of a
compromise between two differing plans presented at a public hearing back in June.
A second plan is being called, “The Jordan Plan.” It suggests a significant change in the
composition of Ward 1 and shifts some voting precincts in and out of other wards to
create what is called an “influence” ward. This ward would divide the population up
racially so that it is almost identical to the racial makeup of Norfolk’s 2010 Census
Do citizens have anything to say about these plans or the ward system?
Yes. Both of these plans will be presented the Norfolk City Council for a vote on June
28, 2011. Citizens are invited to share their thoughts and ideas with the council.
The regularly scheduled meeting will be held starting at 7:00 p.m. at Norfolk City Hall.
Guidelines for addressing council can be found on the city’s website at
Citizens can also email the city council at email@example.com or call members of
council. Further information, including phone numbers, can be found at