Virginia Redistricting Commission Launches New Website

The Virginia Redistricting Commission launched a new website May 24 with an easier-to-remember URL and a mechanism through which citizens can provide their e-mail addresses to receive regular communications from the commission.

At a meeting of the full commission, Amigo Wade, director of the Division of Legislative Services, said that visitors to the commission’s old web address, nested within the DLS’s web pages, would now be redirected to www.virginiaredistricting.org. Democratic Co-chair Greta Harris, who was presiding at the meeting, responded, “I love that. It makes it much easier to find our body of work.”

The co-chairs of the commission’s subcommittees reported on their recent meetings, but did not call on the full commission to resolve any issues that arose during their deliberations. James Abrenio, the Democratic co-chair of the Citizen Engagement Subcommittee, said his subcommittee would be reviewing guidelines that the Michigan Redistricting Commission developed for public input at its meetings, but no mention was made of their discussion of the Michigan commission’s portal, which makes use of tools to sort, categorize and display comments and community of interest maps developed by members of the public

Abrenio reported that the subcommittee had discussed clarifying the deadline for posting written comments to the commission before a meeting. (The deadline for requesting to speak at a full commission meeting is 10 a.m. the day before.) Written comments sent to the commission by at least three individual members of the League of Women Voters of Virginia in the days before the most recent meeting were not posted before the start of the meeting.

Richard Harrell, the subcommittee’s Republican co-chair, detailed the $250,000 the Citizen Engagement Subcommittee had voted to request for its outreach, noting that it represented only 12 percent of the commission’s overall budget. Harrell said the subcommittee envisioned holding four in-person public hearings before the Census data was received, and four more after the maps were initially drawn but before they were submitted to the General Assembly. It was anticipated that four commissioners would attend each hearing, but that each commissioner would only have to attend two of the eight sessions, one before and one after the maps were drawn. The commission anticipates an equal mix of party representatives and citizen and legislators at each hearing, with members able to attend the sessions closest to their homes. Wade said DLS would soon share a proposed schedule of the hearings, which would likely start in July.

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Redistricting Commission Steps Up Pace of Work on Key Decisions

The Virginia Redistricting Commission stepped up the pace of its work at its May 10 meeting, setting a more aggressive schedule of subcommittee meetings in the month of May to make key decisions regarding its budget and procurements and  plans for managing citizen outreach and  public input.

Under the new timetable, the commission’s Citizen Engagement Subcommittee will meet first, on Monday May 17 at 2 p.m., to help provide guidance to the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, which will hold its first meeting on Wednesday May 19 at 2 p.m. The Citizen Engagement Subcommittee scheduled additional meetings on May 20 at 10 a.m. and Wednesday May 26 at 10 a.m. Budget and Finance plans additional meetings on Tuesday May 25 at 10 a.m. and Thursday May 27 at 10 a.m. The full commission still plans to meet on Monday May 24 at 10 a.m., when it is scheduled to receive a presentation on the 2020 census.

Like the commission, the subcommittees are co-chaired by citizen members and evenly divided between parties, between citizens and legislators and between members of the chambers of the General Assembly.  Meetings will all be open to the public and other commissioners, but only subcommittee members can vote on recommendations to the full commission.

The subcommittees’ deliberations will likely be guided by an overview the commissioners received at their latest meeting by Brooks Braun, a Division of Legislative Services member, who analyzed the budget and operations of the country’s 11 citizen-led redistricting commissions. Braun said that DLS hoped to “provide you with some context so you’re not groping in the dark.” The materials Braun prepared and assembled were posted at the meeting and have been added to the Materials document available here. 

Braun noted that Virginia’s commission was the only one with both legislator and citizen members. Of the states with citizen-led commissions, he noted that Virginia was “probably most like Colorado, Michigan and Washington,” in terms of size, and might be closest demographically to Washington in terms of its diversity  and its mix of industries.

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League Co-Sponsors “Deep Dive” Into Redistricting on May 12

The League of Women Voters is joining with other redistricting reform advocacy groups in sponsoring a virtual “Redistricting Deep Dive” on Wednesday May 12, beginning at 10 a.m.

Liz White, executive director of One Virginia 2021, one of the event’s co-sponsors, invited members of the Virginia Redistricting Commission at their May 10 meeting to tune into the webinar to build on the redistricting training they have already received. White said the event’s sponsors had “assembled a lot of the top minds” in the United States on redistricting, including former members of California’s independent redistricting commission.

The webinar is free and open to the public, and will be recorded for future viewing. Click here to register. 

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Follow-Up to LWV’s (Virtual) Day of Action on Redistricting

The League of Women Voters of Virginia had a good turnout for its (Virtual) Day of Action on Redistricting on April 29. 

If you missed the webinar–or would like to see it again–you can view it here.

Here is a list of key links that was shared during the presentation.

Here is a copy of the slides that were used during the presentation. 

For more information about how the League of Women Voters of the U.S. is advocating for redistricting reform, click here. 

If you would like to contact the League of Women Voters of Virginia about scheduling a program about redistricting or arrange for a training session on some of the redistricting map-drawing tools, click here. 

–Sara Fitzgerald, LWV-Falls Church

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Redistricting Day of Action Presentation

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Redistricting Day of Action Key Links

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Redistricting Commission Organizes Subcommittees to Move Forward

The Virginia Redistricting Commission April 26 organized itself into two subcommittees to delve more deeply into its work and began to discuss some of the larger issues it will face in the year ahead.  

Before the start of the meeting, the commissioners were able to view a 25-minute video presentation, “Redistricting 101,” prepared by the Division of Legislative Services staff. It covered pertinent federal and state legislation and court precedents, details of the information that the U.S. Census Bureau will provide, and more specifics about the software and computer resources that have been acquired to support the commission’s work. The presentation can be viewed here

At the end of the presentation, DLS attorney Meg Lamb explained that the General Assembly’s Joint Reapportionment Committee was still responsible for managing the census data, but was no longer controlled redistricting. However, she explained that last October, when the committee was still in charge and “when this decision needed to be made,” it voted to include the addresses of incumbent legislators in the redistricting base maps. Lamb noted that “using incumbent addresses to avoid incumbent pairing,” that is, forcing two or more incumbents to run against each other, “is an accepted factor to consider in redistricting.” She said it was a criteria that had been adopted in previous cycles, “but we can certainly revisit the issue if you all would like.” 

When Co-chair Greta Harris asked if there were questions about the presentation, Democratic citizen member Sean Kumar said he wanted to have a better understanding of the legal constraints on how the commission would approach its work and whether it would merely tweak existing boundaries or start “from scratch.” Kumar noted that the use of incumbent addresses was an issue the commission would face.  

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Join the League’s National Day of Action on Redistricting April 29

The Virginia League of Women Voters invites you to be part of the League’s National Day of Action on Redistricting by joining a webinar on Thursday April 29 from 7-8:30  p.m.
 
The Zoomed event will feature LWV experts from Virginia and other community activists who will review the timetable for the new bipartisan, citizen-led Virginia Redistricting Commission and discuss how Virginians can help ensure that fair maps are drawn for their communities this year.
 
The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required to receive the link. Click here to  reserve your spot. Click here to learn more about other plans for the national League’s “People-Powered Day of Action.” 
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Redistricting Commission Takes Steps Toward Fleshing Out Plans

The Virginia Redistricting Commission held its third official meeting April 12, taking some more steps toward fleshing out its plans and procedures going forward.

The commission has scheduled its next meetings, all on Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon, for April 26, May 10 and May 24. The agenda of the next meeting is scheduled to include a presentation on “Redistricting 101,” and the Division of Legislative Services staff indicated that that presentation might be pre-recorded to help make more efficient use of the commission’s meeting times. A scheduled presentation for the latest meeting, covering Robert’s Rules of Order, talking to the media and talking with the general public, was shared with the commissioners in a pre-taped video.

Presentation slides said that the Virginia Code did not permit commission members, staff or consultants to “individually engage with interested citizens or groups regarding the redistricting process outside of formal public meetings or hearings.” The protocol, it said, “ensures full transparency and accountability, and the integrity of our process.” Co-Chair Greta Harris noted that the DLS staff had drafted suggested email messages for commissioners to use when responding to the public so that they would stay within the rules and promote transparency.

DLS staff member Julie Smith described planned improvements for the commission’s website, but did not provide a timeline by which the improvements would be completed. Smith said that in the future, interested persons will be able to subscribe to be notified when redistricting-related updates are made. In addition, the website will seek to address Frequently Asked Questions about Read more

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Redistricting Commission Sets Next Meeting for April 12

The Virginia Redistricting Commission will hold its next meeting on Monday April 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. The commission’s previously announced schedule was modified after Sen. Mamie Locke, one of the legislator members, said she would be unable to attend the announced dates. 

The commission may also meet on April 26 and May 10, but those dates are not yet official. 

The agenda for the next meeting will be posted here. The session will include a presentation by the Division of Legislative Services staff on meeting etiquette. A video of the commission’s last meeting and other materials are also available. 

–Sara Fitzgerald, LWV-Falls Church

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