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Va. Redistricting Commission implodes as Republicans reject compromise and Democrats walk out

Draft maps are presented at a meeting of the Virginia Redistricting Commission.
Draft maps are presented at a meeting of the Virginia Redistricting Commission.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:10 AM EDT
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The Virginia Redistricting Commission’s first-ever attempt to draw fair political maps collapsed in spectacular fashion Friday when frustrated Democrats walked out of a meeting after Republicans rebuffed their suggestions for reaching a compromise.

The commission, which has been holding regular meetings for more than a month, never came close to reaching an agreement on final General Assembly maps. Partisanship dominated the process from the start, with the commission hiring two teams of overtly partisan consultants and repeatedly failing to agree on how to merge two sets of maps.

The process now appears headed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, unless the three Democratic walkouts change their minds and agree to meet again. But that appears unlikely based on how Friday’s meeting ended.

The gridlock reached a breaking point as the commission failed to agree on which maps to use as a starting point for its final push for a deal. The commission’s eight Democrats voted to begin with a Republican-drawn House of Delegates map and Democratic-drawn Senate map. Republicans voted against that offer and suggested keeping both a GOP and Democratic Senate map alive — a proposal all eight Democrats voted down.

That prompted Democratic co-chair Greta Harris to call it quits. If the commission is going to work in 2031, she said, it shouldn’t have any legislators on it and all members should be required to take a history class to understand why Black commissioners felt so strongly about protecting minority voting power.

“I think our work is done,” Harris said. “And what a shame it is.”

After a brief recess, Democrats motioned to adjourn the meeting. That effort failed when two Democrats voted with Republicans to continue working toward compromise. But Harris and two other Democratic citizens, James Abrenio and Brandon Hutchins, simply left the room, making clear they felt further negotiations with Republicans would be useless.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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