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.” Read More
Democratic operative Paul Goldman is asking a federal court to issue a temporary injunction blocking the State Board of Elections from issuing Certificates of Election in the House of Delegates certifying that the winners have the right to a two-year term. Goldman’s motion is part of his ongoing lawsuit arguing that the recent elections were unconstitutional, since they were held on old district lines due to redistricting delays. Goldman filed his suit before the election. He said he didn’t receive support from Democrats, and that Attorney General Mark Herring slow-walked the process. Herring’s office is defending state elections officials in the suit.
“They have specifically avoided dealing with this. Herring could have issued an opinion during the election. They could have had the Supreme Court do a ruling. They didn’t do it. Why? Because the Democrats were trying to get a two-year term,” Goldman told The Virginia Star. “Now this same argument can be used by the Republicans.” Read More
The Supreme Court of Virginia rejected all three of Republicans nominees for special master to work with the Court for redistricting, noting that the nominees had conflicts of interest. The Court also rejected one of the Democratic nominees, noting that he might not be able to perform the job. The Court explained that it was taking the opportunity to more clearly define how it views special masters.
“This Court has not previously addressed the role and requirements for its Special Masters. It is appropriate to do so now,” the Court wrote Friday. “Although the Special Master candidates are to be nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the nominees — upon being appointed by this Court as Special Masters — will serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Consequently, the Special Masters must be neutral and not act as advocates or representatives of any one political party.” Read More
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.” Read More
State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) is running for the GOP nomination for Virginia’s seventh congressional district. The region is considered a swing district and Republicans nationally expect to do well in the 2022 midterm congressional elections. The nominee will likely challenge incumbent Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), who has warned her party about the risks to moderates caused by progressive messaging and policy.
“Under President Trump our economy was humming, people were working, and government did not dominate or intrude in our lives and livelihood. But under Joe Biden and Abigail Spanberger, an intrusive, progressive government is failing us, badly. Spanberger has failed to make the Seventh District what it should be – the best place to work, live, and raise a family,” Reeves said in a Friday press release. Read More
Virginia may have seen the last of its Redistricting Commission. After multiple perfect ties split along party lines on votes held over the past months, the Commission reached consensus on Wednesday to adjourn until the two co-chairs decide to reconvene the commission. The commission’s one remaining scheduled meeting on Monday and a public hearing for Friday are canceled. The co-chairs said they would reconvene the commission if two commissioners, one from each party, were able to jointly propose a way to redistrict Virginia’s congressional maps.
Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said, “That would give us kind of a better basis, so if Senator Barker finds someone that likes something also on the other side they can bring it to the co-chairs attention, and then we can call a meeting for us to all come and consider it. But I think the issue is that if we say that there is some place for consensus and that we can still keep working, but is that going to happen at another meeting just like this?” Read More
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). Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission has moved on to full consideration of the congressional map without making any decisions about the General Assembly maps and using a two-week extension period. In advance of a meeting Thursday, the co-chairs had asked the Republican map-drawing team to draft a proposal for the Republican-voting southwest region of Virginia, and the Democratic team to draw a proposal for Democratic-voting northern Virginia, while both map drawers roughly followed the existing court-drawn districts three and four. Those districts have the most significant minority voter populations, which require extra protection by law.
Debate over the preliminary proposals again focused how to protect minority voters, but by the end of the meeting, there seemed to be a shaky consensus to leave district three and four mostly intact, with support from both Democratic and Republican legal teams. The commission returned to the question of what fair maps are: do they reflect Virginia’s blue-leaning voter base, or do they give an even split to each party? How important is compactness versus regional identity? Read More
A lawsuit that could force House of Delegates candidates to run multiple years in a row had a win Tuesday. Paul Goldman’s lawsuit lists multiple Virginia officials and agencies as defendants, but the Office of the Attorney General argued that they were protected by sovereign immunity. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge David Novak ruled that while defendants including Governor Ralph Northam are protected, the lawsuit can proceed against the State Board of Elections and Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper.
“That’s fine with me because I’ve still got four defendants left, you only need one,” Goldman told The Virginia Star. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission hasn’t made a formal decision, but it seems to be moving on after missing a Sunday deadline to complete General Assembly maps. In a virtual meeting Monday, commissioners couldn’t take any votes, but they heard preliminary presentations from the partisan legal teams about redistricting Virginia’s congressional maps. When Co-Chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) tried to wrap up the meeting with a summary of action items for a meeting later this week, Delegate Les Adams (R-Chatham) questioned Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) status on the commission, launching what Babichencko called an “airing of grievances” from frustrated commissioners.
On Friday, Harris and two other citizen members broke quorum, ending a fraught meeting. At the time, she said, “At this point I don’t feel as though all members on the commission are sincere in their willingness to compromise and to create fair maps for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And so at that point, if I can’t believe that the people I’m supposed to work with are true and sincere, regrettably, I am done. So thank you very much for the opportunity to serve, but I will remove myself from the commission at this point.” Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission collapsed Friday afternoon while facing a Sunday deadline to complete final maps to present to the General Assembly. The commission failed to break through partisan deadlocks on which drafts to use as a starting point, the latest in weeks of perfect party-line splits in the habitually deadlocked commission. In despair, three citizen members walked out of the meeting breaking quorum and leaving questions about the future of the commission. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission is hearing public comment on its final draft General Assembly maps, which are due on Sunday October 10. But the Commission is still presenting two sets of maps, one Republican-proposed, and one Democrat-proposed, with no clear path to a consensus on one set of maps that can win with the necessary three-fourths approval from the bipartisan commission. After the hearings this week, the commission is scheduled for a Friday meeting, with an optional Saturday meeting.
“I’m at a loss as to how to go forward,” said Co-Chair Greta Harris on October 2, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission spent its Friday meeting discussing drafts of House maps, but got bogged down during consideration of greater Hampton Roads and Richmond-area maps. Although there is general agreement over much of the geographic areas considered, proposals from partisan map drawers differ in more populated areas, leaving the commission deadlocked and unable to move forward. While debating the Richmond-area maps, commissioners broke out into a frustrated discussion of the process. On Saturday, the commission is scheduled for a final meeting before presenting the proposed House and Senate maps for public consideration — the commission must finalize its House maps, including discussion of Northern Virginia, and finalize its Senate maps in that meeting.
“I don’t know if I want to come back tomorrow, or stay the night. If we’re not going to get anywhere, I just don’t see — and I understand the desire to keep tweaking and working,” Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) said. “And what it seems to have devolved to is we’ve got Republican map makers and lawyers trying to minimize the number of Democratic districts they have to draw, and maximize the number of Republican districts they have to draw. and I could say the same thing here on both sides. I think we kind of have to pick.” Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission turned to drafting a House of Delegates map Wednesday, after working on a Senate map Monday. The commission compared Republican and Democratic proposals in southwest Virginia, Southside, and part of Hampton Roads. As with the first look at Senate maps a week ago, the commissioners spent a significant time in southwest Virginia, and weren’t able to keep up with a schedule that would have allowed them to consider all of Hampton Roads or Eastern Virginia Wednesday. Read More
A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers. Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission is scrambling to find more time to finalize General Assembly draft maps ahead of a series of public hearings on October 4-7. On Monday, the commission saw separate sets of draft maps proposed by the two partisan map-drawing teams. On Thursday, they saw a consensus of four Senate district maps from southwest Virginia where both teams’ proposed districts had more than 90 percent of the population in common. But Thursday’s meeting was largely occupied by debates over when to provide political data to map drawers, and about creating additional instructions about creating districts where minorities can control the vote.
As a result, with just three meetings currently scheduled before public hearings, the commission has only considered how to blend the two partisan proposals in the four easiest districts from the Senate, and has not considered how to handle the partisan House proposals.
“We need more time,” Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said. “I think we’re going to want more time if we’re going to go through and look at all these decisions.” Read More
Partisan map drawers presented the first set of maps of the whole commonwealth to the Virginia Redistricting Commission Monday. The commission is nearing the end of its allotted time to create maps for the Virginia General Assembly; the maps are expected to be submitted between October 10th and October 24th. But the maps presented to the commission are drafts, and the commission still needs to analyze public comment and political data and how that should affect the maps. Additionally, the commission has to find a way to turn the two sets of proposals from the Republican and Democratic map drawers into one final draft.
“We’re three weeks away from when we’re supposed to vote on final maps to be presented to the General Assembly. So the clock is really moving quickly now. So think about your ideas on how to reconcile the two versions of each map that we have,” Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) told the commission. Read More
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
Another Republican member is resigning from the Virginia Redistricting Commission. On Friday, Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) announced his resignation; the commission will likely appoint a replacement from a list already put forward by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City.)
“I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Virginia Redistricting Commission for the past nine months. Approved by the voters last November, the bipartisan Commission is in its first year and I wish them well as they continue to navigate uncharted territory,” Newman said in a statement. “Given the newly published Commission meeting schedule and my ongoing professional obligations, I regret that I can no longer serve on this body.” Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission voted Monday to start with blank, new maps. Some legislators proposed an alternate proposal to draw two sets of maps, one based off current maps, and one from a blank slate, but that motion was defeated.
Citizen Commissioner Sean Kumar (D) introduced the initial motion for blank maps, noting that in public comment, most of the public has expressed a desire for new maps, and that both parties have an interest in protecting the incumbents.
Barker introduced the substitute plan to draw the two sets of maps, and Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) seconded it. Read More
Based on population shifts reflected in 2020 Census Data, southwestern Virginia is likely to lose a House of Delegates district, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. On top of that, HB 1255, a 2020 bill passed by the General Assembly now requires incarcerated people to be counted at the address where they were living prior to their incarceration. That’s a problem for some districts with a significant number of prisons, including Senate District 38, where Senator Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell) was recently elected. Hackworth is part of a group of Southwestern Virginians suing the Virginia Redistricting Commission, the State Board of Elections, and the Virginia Department of Elections to block the change in where incarcerated people are counted.
“Virginia prisons are typically located in rural districts with greater Republican voting strength, particularly in the Southside and Southwest regions of the Commonwealth in which Petitioners are voting permanent residents (and, in Petitioner Hackworth’s case, an elected state senator,)” court documents state, noting that incarcerated people do use local infrastructure. 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 U.S. Census Bureau released 2020 Census data on August 12; a key takeaway from the data is that metro areas across the U.S. are growing, but many counties are seeing their population decrease.
“Many counties within metro areas saw growth, especially those in the south and west. However, as we’ve been seeing in our annual population estimates, our nation is growing slower than it used to,” Census Bureau Senior Demographer Marc Perry said in a press release. Read More
RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly approved eight new judges for the Court of Appeals of Virginia Tuesday. Although tradition kept Republicans from voting against the candidates, votes on individual candidates varied as Republican legislators abstained. That completed the General Assembly’s goals for the special session: allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and filling court vacancies.
“I thought it was an historic session,” Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star. “What just happened with the Court of Appeals was the largest number of judges to go on the Court of Appeals since 1985, and we gave Virginians the same right to appeal their legal matter that every other American has.” Read More
The Virginia Redistricting Commission voted Monday to nominate Virginia Trost-Thornton as a Republican citizen member after Marvin Gilliam resigned two weeks ago.
“I can support either one of them. I know that Virginia Trost is from the Forest area, she is a chemical engineer and a lawyer and a math major and a pretty smart lady,” Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) told the commission. Read More
Virginia Trost-Thornton became the newest member of the Virginia Redistricting Commission (VRC) on Monday, replacing Republican citizen member Marvin W. Gilliam Jr.
Made up of both state legislators and other appointees, the VRC is tasked with the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts. 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
Redistricting for Virginia’s legislative districts will not be complete in time for the 2021 House of Delegates elections, according to a draft timeline presented at a Virginia Redistricting Commission (VRC) meeting Tuesday. Census data is not expected until mid-August, which starts a 45-day timeline for the commission to send completed House and Senate maps to the General Assembly. As a result, Virginia may have House of Delegates races three years in a row: 2021, 2022 based on new districts, and the regularly scheduled 2023 election. Read More
Thanks to reporting delays with 2020 U.S. Census data, the timeline for Virginia’s newly implemented redistricting process and the 2021 elections for all 100 House of Delegates seats could be impacted.
On Wednesday, a Census Bureau official said the redistricting data for states may not arrive until July 30th or afterward. Read More
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) is calling for Trump supporter Jose Feliciano Jr. to resign from Virginia’s redistricting commission. Feliciano is one of Republicans’ four citizen appointees, and is under fire for comments he allegedly made on Twitter. Read More
A selection committee of five retired judges on Wednesday chose the eight citizens who will serve on the Virginia Redistricting Commission, completing the membership determination process for the newly-implemented body tasked with proposing plans for redrawing the Commonwealth’s 111 congressional and legislative districts.
The judges met for several hours on Wednesday morning and had to come up with the eight names from a pool of 62 finalists. Read More
The four legislative leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate picked 62 citizen finalists last Friday to be considered for eight available spots on Virginia’s new redistricting commission.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) were responsible for making lists of 16 citizens out of more than 1,200 applicants. Read More
The application window for citizens to apply for the Virginia Redistricting Commission closed on Monday and a final tally from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) showed that 1,238 Virginians are interested in serving on the extremely important and influential panel.
Just two weeks ago, however, only 88 citizens had applied for the commission since November 30 and Virginia Division of Legislative Services (DLS) Director Amigo Wade said they received 600-650 applications during the final days before the deadline. Read More
The application window to become one of eight citizen members on the new Virginia Redistricting Commission has reached the halfway point and a demographic breakdown of applicants to date from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) reveals some interesting trends.
VPAP’s visual breakdown of applicants’ demographic makeup features things like race, gender, age, party affiliation and more. Read More
Party leaders from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have appointed the eight lawmakers that will serve on the newly-formed bipartisan redistricting commission tasked with redrawing the Commonwealth’s legislative and congressional lines.
The Senators on the commission will be Steve Newman (R-Bedford), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), George Barker (D-Fairfax County) and Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Amigo Wade, acting director of the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, told The Virginia Star. Read More
Starting on Monday, applications for state residents to become citizen members of the Virginia Redistricting Commission are now open and available online.
Virginians have until December 28th, or just under a month, to apply for the possibility to serve alongside eight lawmakers on the commission and take part in the state’s new process for drawing legislative and congressional district lines. Read More
The Virginia Senate on Monday adopted a number of slight changes to legislation and the budget recommended by Governor Ralph Northam, including language for the implementation of the recently-approved redistricting commission.
Overall, including the budget, the Senate passed amendments for ten bills from the House and Senate. Most passage votes were primarily along party lines with a couple amendments garnering unanimous support. Read More
The majority of Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment this week aimed to prevent and stop political gerrymandering by changing the Commonwealth’s redistricting process.
Sixty six percent of Virginians answered yes to constitutional amendment question 1 on ballots and, overall, voters in every locality were in support except for Arlington, while 34 percent voted no to the question, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Read More
During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury.
The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). Read More
As part of the Senate’s bill for the biennial budget, one amendment offers details and more specifics on the proposed Virginia Redistricting Commission.
Included in the budget amendment item 4-14 is eligibility criteria for citizen commission members, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and public participation in the redistricting process. Read More