After a strategy shift, the Virginia Redistricting Commission spent its two meetings this week discussing guidance from legal teams about how to ensure legal compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and how to consider political subdivisions, communities of interest, and partisan equity. Republican and Democratic legal teams shared different analyses of how to ensure compliance with section two of the VRA, which requires that districts not dilute the voting power of protected minorities. Democratic legal counsel argued that map drawers must create majority-minority districts where possible including through coalitions of minority groups. Republican counsel said that while creating those districts was permissible and even likely to happen, explicitly instructing the mapdrawers to consider race fell outside the legal criteria under which race can be considered, violating the Equal Protection Clause.
The commission debated the issue for hours across two meetings on Monday and Wednesday and defeated three proposals to say the mapdrawers “shall,” “may,” or “shall provide where practicable,” the majority-minority districts.
Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) summarized the debate over the “shall” language Monday: “This motion specifically means that we’re going to get sued one way or the other — one counsel is saying we specifically can’t do this, one counsel is saying we specifically have to do this.” Read More
Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) is the newest addition to the Virginia Redistricting Commission. His predecessor Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) resigned after the commission’s busy schedule for the next two months was announced.
“I know he put a lot of effort, time, and passion into this commission. He resigned shortly after we released our wonderful meetings. So I don’t know if [Co-Chair Greta Harris (D)] and I scared him away or what,” Co-Chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) joked. Read More
RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Redistricting Commission will hire separate Republican and Democratic map-drawing teams after voting against a non-partisan team proposed by the Democratic legal counsel. In the Tuesday meeting, the commission also worked on a guidance document and agreed to allow the use of historical political data and incumbents’ addresses during the map drawing process.
Democratic citizen members of the commission lamented the loss of a more non-partisan perspective.
“The spirit of what we were trying to do as a commission as we’ve heard from citizens over and over again, is not quite unfolding the way maybe many citizens had hoped, but we will do the best we can within the constraints of what we’re voting on as a commission,” Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) said. Read More
The U.S. Census Bureau released 2020 census data on Friday, but on Monday, the Virginia Redistricting Commission voted 14-1 with one abstention to consider August 26 the date of receipt of census bureau data. That’s due to Census Bureau delays that led to the data being released in an older format that will take vendors two weeks to process.
“This situation is very different from, I think, probably any other redistricting effort that has been done since long before World War II,” Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) said, noting that law requires delivery of census data within a year of the census date. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission is facing key decisions about how it will create legislative maps. The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to publish 2020 Census data later this month. When the commission receives the data on August 16, that will launch a 45-day deadline for the commission to create the maps for House of Delegates and Senate. But the commission is still debating key questions about how to draw the maps: should subcommittees be used, who should be on them, and should the maps be based on the current maps. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission has its first resignation. On Tuesday at the Commission’s first in-person meeting Republican Citizen Member Marvin Gilliam announced his departure. His replacement will be selected from candidates already identified by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City.) Read More