Commission Adjourns with No Maps


The Virginia Redistricting Commission adjourned Friday -- and may not meet again in time to draw new legislative maps. If so, the responsibility would fall to the state Supreme Court.

Partisan distrust ran so deep that the eight Republican and eight Democratic commissioners could not even agree on a starting point for drawing districts that both sides considered fair. A motion of Democrats to begin with a Republican-drawn state House map and a Democratic-drawn state Senate map failed 8-8, with all GOP members voting 'no'.

After a brief recess to let both sides cool, co-chair Greta Harris, a citizen member from Richmond, said that some members were not "sincere" in their desire to reach agreement. "I am done," Harris said, standing up and walking off the dias.

She left the room, followed by two of the three remaining Democrats. Without a quorum, the move effectively adjourned the meeting. (Harris later told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she did not resign, but merely left the room. VPAP had interpreted her gesture as a resignation.)

With a Sunday deadline looming, the commission could come back Saturday for one last-ditch effort at compromise. But co-chair, Mackenzie Babichenko (R-Hanover), noted there was no assurance the panel could muster a quorum.

If the commission fails, the state Supreme Court will be tasked with drawing legislative districts that take into account population changes in the last decade. Some Democrats fear a bad outcome from justices, most of whom were appointed by the legislature when it was controlled by the Republicans. The legislation drafted by Democrats requires the court to hire Republican and Democratic experts to draw the maps.

The Commission still has time to draw congresional maps.

The partisan divide that seemed to doom the commission from the start was its unwillingess to insist that its partisan lawyers and mapmakers work together -- a political compromise that both adheres to the Voting Rights Act parameters and follows criteria included in state law. Instead, the two sides kept drawing their own versions and were unable, in the end, to agree.

 

Oct. 8, 2021

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