Commision Spends 6 Hours Wrestling with Senate Maps


What used to take place behind closed doors was streamed live Monday in full view of the public.

In an extraordinary session, Virginia's new Redistricting Commission sought to solve the puzzle of sorting Virginia's 8.6 million citizens evenly into 40 State Senate districts.

“We're giving the citizens what they wanted," said Co-Chair Greta Harris, a citizen member from Richmond, "in seeing the democratic sausage making in progress.”

The 16-member Commission (divided evenly between citizens and legislators) worked its way through a map drawn by its Republican and Democratic consultants. It also sought to revise some areas based on public comments posted online. Members said some progress had been made, but they would return Wednesday to work through outstanding issues, including:

  • The configuration of Hampton Roads, especially how to draw Black-majority and coalition districts.
  • Creating an Asian community of interest along the Loudoun/Fairfax county line.
  • Fashioning a district that connects the Blacksburg-Roanoke corridor
  • Eliminating a split in the community surrounding George Mason University near Fairfax City.
  • Combining some suburban areas in Spotsylvania County with the city of Fredericksburg
  • Keeping together the community along Columbia Pike in Arlington
  • Pairing Nelson County with Albemarle County and Charlottesville
  • Considering a plan by Sen. George Barker (D-Fairfax) to create a third minority-majority district in the Richmond area.

Partisan tensions flared during the six-hours meeting, but in the end Commission members wiped out a contentious vote along party lines in an effort to build goodwill.

The clock is ticking louder as the Commission's October 10 deadline nears. The Commission find consensus on maps for Senate and the 100-member House of Delegates. A super-majority is required to advance a proposal to the General Assembly, which can vote them up or down, but not edit the maps. If the Commission cannot finish by October 10, the law grants it one 14-day extension. If it misses that deadline, the mapmaking falls to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Not every is rooting for the Commission. Some Democrats took to social media over the weekend saying the Commission's baseline Senate map favors Republicans and that perhaps they should take their chances with the Supreme Court.

The next meeting is Wednesday. Harris said the goal is to get the Senate and House maps done by Saturday, in time for a series of public hearings around the state that begin next Monday.

At the end of the meeting, there was discussion about what kind consideration should be given to maps submitted by citizens and posted on the Commission's website. Staff said they would come back Wednesday with recommendations.

 

Sept. 27, 2021

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