Very Brief hearing for Eastern Region
This morning’s Redistricting Commission public hearing was intended to focus on the Eastern Region as defined by UVa’s Weldon Cooper Center but none of the speakers specifically addressed issues related to that region, which encompasses the Eastern Shore, Northern Neck, and part of the Middle Peninsula. Instead, speakers addressed the Fredericksburg area, the Roanoke and New River Valleys, and Hampton Roads.
Fran Larkins of Stafford County advocated that Stafford and Fredericksburg should not be grouped with more rural King George County, and instead include northern Spotsylvania County, following the I-95 transportation corridor. She thanked Commission member Del. Margaret Ransone (R-Kinsale) for pointing out that Stafford is currently divided three ways. Looking at the bigger picture, Larkins urged the Commission to take the 14-day extension allowed by law and get rid of the partisan map drawers, instead seeking advice from trusted non-partisan organizations such as the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Moon Duchin’s group of mathematicians at Tufts University. She also recommended getting rid of the lawyers, stop protecting incumbents, and focus on communities of interest in order to complete the process.
Martha Hooker of Roanoke County criticized proposed maps for overpopulating districts in the southwestern portion of the state, and specifically criticized a proposed senate district that combines Roanoke with parts of Montgomery County and the city of Radford as a partisan gerrymander. On the House side she asserted that the city of Radford is more aligned with Pulaski County than with nearby Blacksburg, even though both Radford and Blacksburg are university communities. Farther southwest, she advocated for aligning Washington County with Smyth County and Marion rather than Russell County.
Vicky Williams of Hampton urged the commissioners to stay focused on their mission and leave personal opinions and incumbent protection out of consideration. Regarding the Peninsula area, the communities are closely linked with the shipyard, Langley, and Hampton University.
The hearing was over in less than half an hour.
LWV-VA Observer Corps –
Chris DeRosa – LWV-ARL
Peggy Layne – LWV-MC