When the Virginia Redistricting Commission next came together on Thursday, October 14, presiding Co-chair Greta Harris announced that the Commission would be moving on to Congressional maps. The co-chairs had met and given instructions for staff to start with Districts 3 and 4 which were drawn by the courts and then proceed to three districts in the Southwest and Southside; three districts in Northern Virginia; and two districts in the middle of the state. Initially, the Republican and Democrat map drawers each reviewed maps that had been posted on the Commission web site the previous evening. They later also incorporated maps for a few missing regions so that the entire state could be viewed.
Their discussion included whether Districts 3 and 4 were the best starting point. The counsels advised those two maps “represent the safest route to compliance with the Voting Rights Act because they were drawn by the Special Master and blessed by the federal courts.” Both map drawers focused on compactness, and this created its own set of issues. Did the more east/west alignment of the proposed districts benefit the Republicans and hint at gerrymandering? Should districts cross mountains to be more compact or run lengthwise through the valleys on either side of the mountain?
Several commissioners also reminded everyone that there is still uncertainty about “partisan fairness” and unduly favoring one party or the other. Co-chair Harris asked “what is a reasonable goal for a Congressional District given population changes and recent election results. What is fair balance? This is the most sensitive direction we can give.” Citizen commissioner James Abrenio wanted to know, “How are other commissions treating this? What does the public think?”
As the meeting drew to a close, a “Hail Mary” proposal by Democrat counsel Dr. Kareem Crayton paved the way for the Commission to post one map for public comments. “Let’s agree about Districts 3 and 4 and we would accept, for the moment, John Morgan’s (Republican) District 4 and District 5 and “our” District 2 and District 7.” Republican counsel Bryan Tyson said he largely agreed. “If we want one map, use the three districts Zach [Coomes] drew in Northern Virginia, John’s [Morgan] Southwest, Zach’s 2 and 7, and agree on Districts 3 and 4. John’s District 1 could also work.” Dr. Crayton added, “It would be helpful to hear what people think about the configurations.”
The combined map was posted Thursday evening on the Commission website as #364, C1 Statewide. The next meeting of the Commission will be Monday, October 18 at 8 a.m. Your comments on the map can be posted online and your views on “partisan fairness” and whether districts should cross mountains should be submitted via the Comments Form on the Commission web site. You can also send emails to the Commission at . The deadline to sign up to speak virtually at Monday’s meeting is Sunday, October 17 at noon.
PUBLIC COMMENTS AND MORE COMPLETE DETAILS ON THE COMMISSION MEETING FOLLOW –