Virginia Redistricting Commission votes to start with blank slate
RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) - This week Virginia’s new Redistricting Commission voted to drop the state’s current political map while redrawing the Commonwealth’s political lines from scratch.
The commission, made up of 16 members, was approved by voters during last year’s election and was formed to cut down on partisan and racial gerrymandering.
Organizations like Virginia Civic Engagement Table were thrilled to see the bipartisan vote pass 12-4 and say it will leave the commissioners with a less biased map.
“We believe that it would be more likely for them to draw maps that are or at least have a better chance of being equitable than starting from existing lines and simply working to adjust them,” Erin Corbett, Redistricting Manager with VCET, said.
After both political sides of the commission hired their own map makers, the next step is to begin drawing lines and agree on what political districts will look like for the next 10 years.
“With each side producing maps and then theoretically working together to find compromise and midpoints between the two sets of maps that they produce,” Corbett said.
A tall order that seems easier said than done with both political parties being represented on the commission. If the commission cannot agree on a map within 45 days of when work begins, then it will be left up to the Virginia Supreme Court to hire its own map maker to draw the lines.
Political experts in the Valley say a difficult part will be making sure those new areas are not divided by natural barriers like bays and rivers.
“If the map drawers abide by the statue is, you cannot have a 6th congressional district,” Bob Roberts, a political analyst with James Madison University, said. “You cannot have a 5th congressional district, you cannot have the 25th House District the way it’s drawn.”
Roberts says he thinks the commission will not agree on a map and that it will be left up to the Virginia Supreme Court. He also says regardless of what the map looks like, the recent census data will bring some changes to the Valley.
“You’re going to see some substantial changes in districts in the western part of the state merely because of the rule that you have to have contiguous districts and that you’re losing population in the western part of the state,” Roberts said.
Both parties’ map makers are expected to begin work Thursday, after data is released redistributing the Commonwealth’s prison population back to the localities they are from.
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