League and Partners Pledge to Help with “Communities of Interest”

The League of Women Voters of Virginia today joined with other redistricting reform organizations to encourage the new Virginia Redistricting Commission to help citizens define their “communities of interest” when the commission begins drawing legislative and congressional district maps. Communities of interest must now be considered when the maps are drawn. The coalition pledged to work with the commission to help citizens understand the tools that can be used to define their communities and to encourage them to share their perspectives with the commission. Here is the text of the letter: 

February 9, 2021

To the members of the Virginia Redistricting Commission:

We represent a coalition of organizations who advocate for fair districts, transparency, and public
involvement in the redistricting process. We were gratified to see the outpouring of applications from
Virginians willing to serve on the Commission and have high expectations for not only the final maps,
but also the public and transparent process that will create them.
Though the members of this Commission represent much of the diversity of the Commonwealth, no
group of 16 individuals can be sufficiently familiar with every community in order to accurately represent
their interests. To that end, the public input mechanisms built into this process are crucial. They alone,
however, will not meet the high standards we believe Virginians expect in this newly transparent
process. Therefore, our coalition seeks to supplement the outreach done by the Commission in order to
facilitate broader, meaningful public engagement.

Because communities of interest are now legally required to be taken into account when drawing
district lines, it is imperative that the public is able to effectively communicate to the Commission what
they believe their communities of interest are. This Commission and the surrounding reforms have
created space for unprecedented public involvement, and we are committed to ensuring that
involvement takes place.

Using public community mapping tools – created by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project (available at
representable.org and explained at gerrymander.princeton.edu/virginia-report) and the Metric Geometry
and Gerrymandering Group at Tufts University (available at districtr.org) – we seek to provide
community members with the tools to submit quantitative recommendations to the Commission.
Individuals will use these tools to precisely show the boundaries of their communities and their ideal
districts to accurately represent their communities’ interests. We will also host numerous virtual events
to collect public input and we plan to invite all Commissioners to participate in hopes you will take the
opportunity to attend.

We stand ready to assist, to engage, to educate, and to participate in this historic process. Together,
we will ensure the most public, transparent redistricting process Virginia has ever seen and to deliver
the most accurate, community-based legislative districts that residents of the Commonwealth so rightly
deserve.

Sincerely,

Kathay Feng, National Redistricting and Representation Director, Common Cause
Michael Futrell, President, National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization
Natalie Snider, State Advocacy Director, AARP Virginia
Phillip Thomson, Executive Director, National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization
Deb Wake, President, League of Women Voters of Virginia
Samuel Wang, Princeton Gerrymandering Project
Liz White, Executive Director, OneVirginia2021 Foundation

–Sara Fitzgerald, LWV, Falls Church

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