Southwest Virginians Speak First at Public Hearings!
A dozen citizens signed on to this morning’s virtual public hearing on proposed General Assembly maps for southwest Virginia. Republican and Democratic map drawers hired by the commission were able to produce maps for this part of the state that largely agree on district lines. Current Republican State Senator David Suetterlein of District 19 (representing Floyd County, Salem City, and parts of Bedford, Carroll, Franklin, Montgomery, Roanoke, and Wythe Counties) started off the public comments with a critique of current proposed map B4 that puts his neighborhood in suburban Roanoke County just outside the city of Roanoke into a proposed district that includes more rural counties to the west and north. The vice-chair of the state Libertarian Party spoke in favor of the proposed districts including Bedford County with Botetourt County, and suggested combining Roanoke City and Roanoke County to produce a more competitive district.
Moving west, two speakers from Montgomery County advocated for a community of interest that includes the town of Blacksburg, city of Radford, and the I-81 corridor to the city of Roanoke, noting that Virginia Tech, Radford University, and the Carilion Clinic are part of an economic subregion with common employment and transportation interests. Several citizens spoke positively of the proposed districts west of Wytheville into the far southwest portions of the Commonwealth. This part of the state has seen population decline relative to the rest of the commonwealth and thus is losing a seat in the House of Delegates. Speakers included the president of Southwest Virginia Community College, a member of the Russell County Industrial Development Authority, the commonwealth attorney for Wise County, a former mayor of Abingdon, the president of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Russell County Board of Supervisors. They spoke in favor of proposed maps that respect county lines, transportation corridors, and planning districts.
Speakers noted that people in southwest Virginia often feel ignored by the more populous regions of the state and asked that the commission maintain the tradition of starting the numbering of House districts from west to east. Erin Corbett of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table asked whether the commission would be providing translation services for upcoming hearings to facilitate increased participation. Just a few hours later, the Commission announced it would be offering Spanish translation services for those who would like to contact them at
A recording of the virtual public hearing for the Southwest region should be available soon through the Virginia Redistricting Commission YouTube Channel.
LWV-VA Observer Corps –
Chris DeRosa, LWV-ARL
Peggy Layne, LWV-MC