Meeting Ends Abruptly as Three Citizen Commissioners Leave Room
At the Commission meeting on Friday, October 8, the first following a series of eight public hearings that ended Thursday, the goal of the co-chairs was to spend the bulk of the day and evening trying to get to a single map for House and a single for Senate. It ended abruptly, however, at 2:45 p.m. with the loss of a quorum after three citizen commissioners walked out.
The Commission meeting began with public comments; approximately 40 people were registered to speak. This was followed by extensive description and detailed discuss of several maps. The map drawers went through the most recent maps reviewing changes and statistics.
Del. Marcus Simon made a motion, seconded by Sen. George Barker, that the Commission use A7 (House) by the Republican map-drawer and B5 (Senate) by the Democratic map drawer as starting points for discussion. Sen. Ryan McDougle offered a substitute motion, seconded by citizen commissioner Richard Harrell, to begin with Senate map A5 by the Republican map-drawer. Both motions failed on separate votes, each 8-8, along party lines.
After impassioned speeches from several Commissioners, the Commission recessed at 2:00 p.m. and attempted to reassemble at 2:35. While waiting a few moments for the legislators to return, Co-chair Greta Harris asked DLS attorney Meg Lamb, if there is not a quorum, can a motion to adjourn be made? At that point, Del. Simon moved to adjourn which failed 6 -10 as more commissioners trickled back into the meeting room.
Then Co-chair Harris spoke, “I have worked in community development with communities of color that have faced discrimination. You have to build trust and believe people sitting across the table from you are sincere in their desire to make a positive difference. At this point, I am prayerful that the Justices will follow the rule of law. I appeal to the Justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia to take the principles, criteria, and look at the law on the Federal and state level and lift up fairness in whatever you do to your maps. I don’t feel all members are sincere in their willingness to compromise and create fair maps. Regrettably, I am done. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I will remove myself from this Commission at this point.”
Citizen commissioners Brandon Hutchins and James Abrenio also left the room. Sen. Ryan McDougle said because three citizens have walked out of the room and one member is attending virtually, they had lost a quorum. This was confirmed by DLS’ Lamb. There was discussion about whether they could continue the meeting at that point, but Sen. Mamie Locke advised “Without a quorum, no action can be taken by this Commission, and you cannot discuss business.”
There was some discussion as to whether Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko could call a meeting Saturday or Monday if there was a quorum to see where the Commission could go from here. Babichenko said she could likely call a meeting but whether there would be a quorum remains to be seen. At that point, the screen went blank . . ..
NOTE: Some sources question as to whether Co-chair Greta Harris has permanently resigned from the Commission. Stay tuned.
Please check the Commission web site www.virginiaredistricting.org for further news.