Citizen Engagement Subcommittee Discusses Public Hearing Schedule and Guidelines for Citizen Input

The Citizen Engagement Subcommittee (Virginia Redistricting Commission) met for the third time on May 26.  

The Commissioners discussed options for public hearings which will be held in July and early August.  Consensus was that each of eight regions (Weldon Cooper map) will have two opportunities to provide input, one in-person hearing and one virtual; one hearing before lines are drawn, and one after. There will be some flexibility in the budget for possible additional hearings and for some of the commissioners to attend more than their scheduled number of hearings.  States such as California and Michigan which have a much larger number of hearings planned are not under the same constraints.

The Commissioners reviewed the guidelines for public input prepared by DLS, and made a few suggestions.  It was generally agreed that in-person hearings would be open to all Virginians, but the virtual hearings would focus on the needs of residents of that region.  People could sign up beforehand, and also at the in-person hearings until 10 minutes after the meeting begins.

A firm schedule of hearings will be considered further at the June 7 meeting of the full commission so that all Commissioners are able to consult their calendars.

DLS staff will continue to revise the proposed guidelines and do further research to answer Commissioners’ questions.

Read on for more details about the Subcommittee’s discussions.

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What’s Your Community of Interest?

As the Virginia Redistricting Commission begins to draw new district maps, it must respect “Communities of Interest” (COI), as stated in SB 717 and HB 1255.

The specific language from the bills is as follows:
“Districts shall be drawn to preserve communities of interest. For purposes of this subdivision, a “community of interest” means a neighborhood or any geographically defined group of people living in 40 an area who share similar social, cultural, and economic interests. A “community of interest” does not include a community based upon political affiliation or relationship with a political party, elected official, or candidate for office.”

Some communities have been cracked or split into 2 or more House of Delegate, State Senate, and/or Congressional districts. Other communities find themselves drawn into a district that is comprised primarily of another County or jurisdiction. In both instances, the voters find that their voices aren’t being heard or respected by their elected leaders.

The League of Women Voters of Virginia partnered with teams from Princeton and Tufts Universities to introduce and train Virginians on how to draw maps of their COI. Virginians can use their easy-to-use, open source tools to identify their Communities of Interest, draw maps of their COIs, and share them with the Redistricting Commission. The goal is to help voters to participate in the redistricting process by creating as many community maps as possible and sharing them – especially hard-to-count populations that might be overlooked in the redistricting process.

The team at Tufts University’s Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) has created the DistrictR tool. You can visit their website for more information. 

The Princeton University/Princeton Gerrymandering Team has created the Representable tool. You can find information at the Representable website.  

The LWV-VA is attempting to collect as many COI maps using the Representable tool. Start at this link in order to add your map to the League’s “mapping drive” folder

Later, you can submit your COI maps to the Commission for their consideration.

To learn more, you may view the recordings of the training and information sessions on our YouTube channel .  

 

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