Redistricting history and process
As one of the original 13 colonies and states, Virginia has long held a prominent status in American politics. The state peaked at 23 congressional districts following the 1810 Census, where it ranked as the most populous state. In the two centuries that have followed, Virginia has long since ceded that status, and has held firm at 11 congressional districts since the 1990 Census.
Ahead of the 2020 election, the Virginia legislature authorized a referendum that transferred redistricting power from the state legislature to a bipartisan commission. Voters approved this by a resounding 31-point margin. However, like most bipartisan commissions, the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to live up to the hype; the commission failed to approve any maps. Democratic commissioners argued that the state’s 7-4 split should be preserved or enhanced (something that might not even be possible under fair, compact lines), while Republicans pushed for a 5-5-1 map.
Regardless of who was at fault, the commission’s failure resulted in a map being drawn by special masters Sean Trende and Bernard Grofman. The map falls somewhere in the middle of what both sides wanted; Democrats hold an edge in 7 districts, and two of the Republican seats (VA-01 and VA-05) are theoretically competitive. However, two of the Democratic-leaning districts (VA-02 and VA-07) are more Republican than the state as a whole. Accordingly, the map could likely yield anything from a 6-5 Republican advantage to a 9-2 Democratic one.
Like most of the rest of the states in the southeast, Virginia ranks above-average in terms of diversity. It has the 17th-lowest non-Hispanic white population in the country, comparable to neighboring North Carolina. The largest minority group in the state is Black Americans, who make up nearly 20% of the population; this is comparable to neighboring North Carolina, but lower than most other states in the southeast.
Black Virginians are primarily concentrated around the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas. Virginia also has sizable Hispanic (9.1%) and Asian (8.2%) populations, both of which make up large potions of the population in Northern Virginia. Hispanic voters make up the largest minority group in the Alexandria-based 8th district, while Asian voters comprise over 25% of the population in the Fairfax-based 11th.
Two of Virginia’s congressional districts – the Hampton Roads-based 3rd and Richmond-based 4th – are majority-minority, although neither are majority-black. Additionally, the four districts based around Northern Virginia (VA-07, VA-08, VA-10, and VA-11) have sizable minority populations and are nearly majority-minority.
|District||Bachelor’s or higher||Rank (of 435)||Non-college white||Rank (of 435)|
Educational attainment in Virginia is above-average compared to the rest of the country; Virginia ranks 7th in the United States in percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree. However, educational attainment in Virginia is concentrated in a handful of congressional districts; seven of the state’s districts rank in the 1st or 2nd quartiles, while four rank in the 3rd or 4th quartiles.
Educational attainment in Virginia is concentrated in two regions: the Northern Virginia suburbs and the Richmond suburbs. The NoVA-based 8th, 10th, and 11th districts all rank in the top 25 nationally, with the Richmond and Tidewater-based 1st also ranking in the top 55. Only one of the state’s districts – the rural, western Virginia-based 9th – ranks in the lowest quartile.
Virginia has solidified itself federally as a Democratic-leaning state, and its congressional districts are no exception to this. The state trended sharply to the left in 2020, with most districts seeing solid swings towards the Democratic Party. Joe Biden would have carried 7 of the state’s 11 districts in 2020. However, a number of seats on both sides rank as highly-competitive, and Republican Glenn Youngkin would have carried a majority of seats in the 2021 gubernatorial election.
Four of Virginia’s districts could be regarded as potentially competitive in most elections. The most competitive of the bunch is the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district, which would have voted for Biden by 2% but would have been carried by Youngkin by 11%. The tipping point seat in the state, the 7th district, is slightly more Republican-leaning than Virginia as a whole, but still voted for Biden by nearly 7%. On the Republican side, the 1st district – which draws in portions of the Tidewater area and the Richmond suburbs – sticks out as a potential Democratic target as well.
2022 election results
|1||Rob Wittman (R)||43%||56%||R+13%|
|2||Elaine Lauria (D)||48.2%||51.6%||R+3.4%|
|3||Bobby Scott (D)||67.2%||32.6%||D+34.6%|
|4||Donald McEachin (D)||64.9%||34.9%||D+30%|
|5||Bob Good (R)||42.2%||57.6%||R+15.4%|
|6||Ben Cline (R)||35.4%||64.4%||R+29%|
|7||Abigail Spanberger (D)||52.2%||47.6%||D+4.6%|
|8||Don Beyer (D)||73.5%||24.8%||D+48.7%|
|9||Morgan Griffith (R)||26.5%||73.2%||R+46.7%|
|10||Jennifer Wexton (D)||53.2%||46.7%||D+6.5%|
|11||Gerry Connolly (D)||66.7%||33%||D+36.7%|
Democrats lost one of Virginia’s congressional districts – the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district – in the 2022 elections, reducing their majority from 7-4 to 6-5. A strong performance from incumbent Democrat Abigail Spanberger in the 7th district, who won her competitive district by nearly 5%, kept Republicans from claiming a majority of districts.
Republicans held up well in their competitive districts. Both Rob Wittman (VA-01) and Bob Good (VA-05) carried their single-digit Trump districts by double-digit margins. This over-performance might be attributable to the Republican-friendly national environment, or to the Democratic Party’s decision not to focus on stretch seats.
The most surprising result came in the 10th district, a Biden+18 district that incumbent Democrat Jennifer Wexton only carried by 6.5%. Wexton’s underperformance ranks among the worst of any Democratic incumbent in the country. This result can be attributed to the Republican candidate, Hung Cao, who ran a strong enough campaign that he has drawn national attention as a potential Senate candidate. If Cao had been the nominee in the 7th district instead of hard-right Yesli Vega, it’s quite possible Republicans would have carried a majority of Virginia’s congressional districts. The 10th district is not expected to be competitive again in the near future.
- VA-01: Rob Wittman (R-Montross)
- VA-02: Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach)
- VA-03: Bobby Scott (D-Newport News)
- VA-04: Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond)
- VA-05: Bob Good (R-Lynchburg)
- VA-06: Ben Cline (R-Fincastle)
- VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D-Glen Allen)
- VA-08: Don Beyer (D-Alexandria)
- VA-09: Morgan Griffith (R-Salem)
- VA-10: Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg)
- VA-11: Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax)