Redistricting Update: We’re Not There Yet

by Phoebe Kent, Voter editor

Quoted material below from Jackie Rivas, LWV Arlington (from October 2019 Virginia Voter)

“Virginia has an historic opportunity that we can’t let slip away. In the 2019 General Assembly, our legislators passed House Joint Resolution No. 615. HJR 615 is a constitutional amendment to create a citizen-led redistricting commission to draw the voting districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Senate and the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly in 2021, after the 2020 Census. This citizen-led redistricting commission would drag the map-drawing out of the smoke-filled back rooms of Richmond and expose it to the cleansing rays of the sun.”

Eight commissioners will be citizen members appointed by retired circuit court judges; two Delegates and two Senators from each party constitute the other eight. Meetings of the commission will be open to the public. It will hold public hearings across the Commonwealth to receive and consider citizen comments. Its records and documents will be considered public information.

The General Assembly passed the amendment to establish the commission 2019; we had an election on November 5, and now the amendment must be passed – verbatim, with nary a comma change – a second time by the General Assembly in 2020. The League and OneVirginia2021 hope to ensure that that happens. The amendment would be on the ballot on November 3, 2020. A separate enabling bill must also pass that determines how district lines will be drawn that specifically prohibits favoring or disfavoring a party or individual; that keeps intact communities of interest; compactness; other implementation requirements.

After census data is collected in 2020, it will be released in 2021 and redistricting will occur. We are hopeful that a fairer process – a redistricting commission – will be in place by then for drawing legislative districts. Make sure your representatives know that you want this to happen.