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Special Session to Redraw Districts May Not Get Far

State lawmakers will head back to Richmond August 30th for yet another special session. Politics watchers don’t expect anything groundbreaking to happen anytime soon.

Lawmakers have a serious problem on their hands. Eleven House of Delegates districts are unconstitutional, according to a panel of federal judges who say Republicans illegally packed black voters into the districts to dilute their influence in adjacent Republican-leaning districts. So Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is summoning them back to Richmond for a special session. 

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says don’t expect it to be all that special. “It seems to me this special session is just coming too soon," Farnsworth argues. "The legal case needs to be resolved before there will be agreement across party lines to do something differently.”

Republicans are still holding out hope they can get the October 30 deadline extended so they can continue to appeal the decision. But Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says they’re playing a game of chicken.

“So my guess is that they’re going to dig their heels in a little bit," Kidd says. "But at the end of the day, they’re going to want to have a hand in how this is done rather than leave it up to a three-judge panel.”

The stakes are huge because Republicans have a one-vote majority in the House of Delegates. Redrawing these 11 districts will make surrounding districts more competitive, and all of those district will hold an election next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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