Virginia Supreme Court rejects map drawers

The Supreme Court of Virginia in Richmond, Va.
The Supreme Court of Virginia in Richmond, Va.(Parker Michels-Boyce/ For The Virginia Mercury)
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 8:57 AM EST
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The Virginia State Supreme Court has rejected three “special master” candidates nominated by Republicans to help redraw Virginia’s legislative lines.

The nominees, the justices said in an order this morning, will serve as officers of the court in a “quasi-judicial capacity” and therefore “must be neutral and must not act as advocates or representatives of any political party.”

The court ordered the Republicans to come up with three new candidates by Monday. It also dropped a Democratic candidate, who was not named, because of his stated concerns about working with another map-drawer as the process requires, and told party members they also had until Monday to come up with another nominee.

The decision came after an outcry from Democrats that the Republican nominees had obvious conflicts of interest. “It troubles me that the Republicans would even try this,” says Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, who had served on the redistricting commission but resigned this week.

The court’s decision is the latest turn as the state struggles with a new regime to draw new legislative boundaries for state and federal races next year.  A bipartisan 16-member commission was created by a Constitutional amendment to move the process away from the secretive traditional method employed by the majority party in the General Assembly.

The commission, beset by partisan squabbling, failed to produce the new maps and the task moved to the State Supreme Court, which told both parties to suggest a slate of special masters to draw up maps for the U.S. House of Representatives and state Senate and House districts. Of the six candidates, one would be picked from each side. The candidates must have no conflicts of interest.

Once selected, they would have 30 days to come up with newly-drawn voting district lines based on the latest U.S. census.

Among the GOP nominees was Thomas Bryan, a former member of the U.S. Census Bureau, but Democrats objected, noting that he accepted $20,000 in consulting fees from the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus.


.(Virginia Mercury)

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

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