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Special Redistricting Session Yields Few Results So Far

Lawmakers met in Richmond Thursday to try to fix district maps for the state legislature. The maps have been deemed unconstitutional by a federal court.

Lawmakers managed to get little done so far, though.

Although both Republicans and Democrats said they wanted to work together to fix the problem, that goodwill was followed by partisan attacks.

Democrats accuse Republicans of dragging their feet on the issue. The GOP appealed the ruling to the U. S. Supreme Court, but late Thursday a lower court let an October deadline stand. Here’s Democratic minority leader David Toscano.

“We proposed coming back September 12th. They didn’t want to do that. They defeated that on the floor,” said Democratic minority leader David Toscano. “We suggested in (privileges and elections) let’s have public hearings and come back early September. They said no. So they want to delay it, that’s in their strategy from the get go.”

In the meantime Democrats have proposed an alternative map. Republicans, who hold a slim majority, callthat plan a partisan power grab.

“That map was not certainly not an indication that they’re serious about working on anything objective,” said Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert. “I mean they told us that their map was fair, it was compact, that it fixed the court’s problems. And in fact it did none of those things.”

During a brief public comment period, lawmakers from both parties were roundly criticized on the process.

"One side is waiting for relief from the courts. The other side came up with a very hastily drawn map without sharing it until…today, pretty much,” said Sue Lewis of Charlottesville. “And that doesn’t seem to be an optimum way to do this kind of work.”

Sabina Weitzman from Fredericksburg is an advocate for nonpartisan redistricting.

“You are calling a particular district, the name of that district you give, is the name of the person representing that district, that district belongs to the citizens of that district,” said Weitzman as the crowd applauded.

Lawmakers did not set an agenda going forward. They have until the end of October to fix the issues. If they can’t come to an agreement the court will take over and redraw the map.

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

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.
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