Redistricting Moves to the Virginia Supreme Court
The redistricting process is now in the hands of the Virginia Supreme Court after the Virginia Redistricting Commission could not reach an agreement on maps for legislative or congressional districts. The Supreme Court of Virginia November 19 named Bernard N. Grofman and Sean P. Trende to be the Special Masters tasked to work together to draw single redistricting maps for the state’s congressional districts and the two legislative chambers.
The court must follow the provisions of the Constitutional Amendment (Article 2, Section 6-A, (g)) that created the commission as well as the criteria in the Virginia Code. The court instructed the Special Masters to produce their maps within 30 days of their appointment, which would create a deadline of December 19.
The Special Masters were also instructed not to “consult with any political parties, partisan organizations, outside experts, or any other person or entity except for their personal support staff, the staff of the Court, and three Division of Legislative Services staff members who supported the Virginia Redistricting Commission. But the Court encouraged the Special Masters to review “comments submitted by any entity or person to the Court’s public comment email address, . Notably, the Court ordered the Special Masters to resolve “any disputes” by good-faith efforts to find a compromise consistent with governing legal requirements.” The Redistricting Commission had voted to hire two partisan map drawers who were never able to present a single, compromise map.
The Court also directed the Special Masters to comply with federal and state law in this order of precedence: the U.S. Constitution, particularly Article I, Section 2, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; applicable federal statutes, particularly the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the Virginia Constitution; and applicable Virginia statutes. In presenting that list of priorities, the Court did not include any of the additional criteria that the Redistricting Commission had voted to accept, such as preserving jurisdictional boundaries or starting the map drawing from “scratch.”
Two helpful resources include a description of the Virginia Supreme Court’s role in redistricting in the Virginia Code and the “Rules and Procedures for Implementing the Requirements of Article II, Section 6-A of the Constitution of Virginia.”
You can follow news developments on redistricting through the League’s redistricting blog.
How you can participate
The new “Redistricting Information” page on the “Virginia’s Judicial System” web site invites the public, including elected officials, to participate in the Court’s redistricting deliberations through submission of written comments to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Virginia, referencing the “Rules and Procedures for Implementing the Requirements of Article II, Section 6-A.” Comments should be sent to .
The Clerk of the Supreme Court of Virginia or the Special Masters may request records from the Virginia Redistricting Commission, including proposals, maps, and transcripts. This could include many of the comments the League and others have already submitted to the Commission, but the public is also encouraged to also send its input directly to the court. The public comments that the court has already received are available for review.
On October 28, the League, OneVirginia2021, the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization and CASA sponsored a webinar about what’s next for redistricting. You can watch the recording here and view the slides on how to make your voice heard here.
Videos of the Redistricting Commission’s meetings and hearings are still available for review on the Commission’s web site.
Redistricting at the Local Level
Most Virginia counties and many local jurisdictions will have to redraw their district boundaries, now that the 2021 Census has been completed. Click here for more information about redistricting at the local level.