Virginia Supreme Court Appoints Special Masters for Redistricting

The Virginia Supreme Court has selected Republican nominee Sean Trende and Democratic nominee Bernard Grofman to be the two Special Masters who will work together to draw legislative and congressional map proposals for the court. Due to deep partisan splits, the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to submit any maps by constitutionally-required deadlines, leaving the task to the Court.

In the order issued Friday, the Court wrote, “Though each was nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the nominees — upon being appointed by this Court as Special Masters — shall serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Consequently, the Special Masters shall be neutral and shall not act as advocates or representatives of any political party. By accepting their appointment, the Special Masters warrant that they have no ‘conflicts of interest,’ Code § 30-399(F), that preclude them from prudently exercising independent judgment, dispassionately following the Court’s instructions, or objectively applying the governing decision-making criteria.”

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Partisan Battles Continue as Virginia Supreme Court Prepares for Redistricting

The Virginia Redistricting Commission ended with a whimper two weeks ago, when the commission adjourned without formally ending the process. On Monday, a final deadline to complete congressional maps passed without any updates from the commission. According to the constitutional amendment passed by voters, that sends the process to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Court will vote on special masters who will work together to create redistricting plans for both congressional and legislative maps. Each General Assembly caucus proposed three nominees, and the Court will pick one from each party.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) sent a letter to the Court saying that the Republican nominees have “disqualifying conflicts of interest.”

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With a Week Left, Virginia Redistricting Commission Far from Consensus on Congressional District Maps

With no quorum, the Virginia Redistricting Commission couldn’t take any votes in its Monday meeting, but the commissioners heard legal discussion of the definition of fairness, and heard public comment on a recent draft map of congressional district that combined Republican proposal for southwest Virginia with the Democratic proposal for northern Virginia. One of the commenters was Sam Shirazi — a member of the public who highlighted links between parts of the draft and maps submitted through public comment by former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA-11).

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