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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Vt. Senate Votes To Divide Up 6-Member Chittenden County District (The Biggest In The US)

The empty Vermont Senate chamber
Oliver Parini
For VPR, File
The Vermont Senate has voted to limit the size of all Senate districts to no more than three members. That would impact how voters in Chittenden County are represented in that chamber.

The Vermont Senate has given its final approval to legislation that would impact how voters in Chittenden County are represented in that chamber.

The current situation:

Right now, the Chittenden district has six members in the Vermont Senate. Here's a map of what areas are represented by those six members.

What the bill would do:

This new legislation, known as S.11, would limit all Senate districts in Vermont to three members or fewer.

The bill calls on the state’s apportionment board to divide the district into smaller segments. It could result in the current six-member Chittenden district turning into two three-member districts or three two-member districts or six one-member districts.

Why lawmakers want a change:

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, who serves as one of the six senators from Chittenden County, is also the lead sponsor of the bill.

“Six in the modern era is too much,” Ashe said. “The voters are not well served by it. The senators representing those voters in Chittenden County are extended too far. So that's why it doesn't say 'this is how it should look' but just under no circumstances should there be more than three.”

And it turns out that the six-member Chittenden County district is the largest in the country: Rutland Sen. Brian Collamore noted that 48 states use only single-member districts, but in Vermont only 3 of the state’s 30 total senatorsare elected from a single-member district (those districts are Lamoille, Orange and Grand Isle).

Collamore told his colleagues that the time has come to divide up Chittenden County.

“It is the largest in the United States of America by a lot,” said Collamore. “Only Vermont and West Virginia have more than one senator in a district, and West Virginia has no more than two senators in a single district.”

The next steps:

It already passed the Senate, but S.11 still needs to get approval in the House and then it would go to the governor.

Should the bill pass all those stages, then the new, smaller Chittenden districts would be part of the state’s 2021 reapportionment plan. That plan will based on the results of the 2020 census.

It's the apportionment board that would ultimately determine just how many districts will be carved out of the current big Chittenden district.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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