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Republicans Advance Race-Blind Map to Fix Racial Gerrymandering

Steve Helber

Virginia Republicans have advanced a plan to redraw a third of Virginia’s state house districts. But lawmakers are still a long way off from agreeing on a final solution and fulfilling a court order.

This summer a court declared 11 state house districts unconstitutional, because black voters had been packed into the districts. That’s the problem lawmakers are now tackling.

The map supported by Republicans, and passed out of committee Thursday, was drawn by Delegate Chris Jones. Jones says he addresses the court’s concerns by not taking racial demographics into consideration.

“What they said was we used race data when we were building the map. And so the best way not to use that is to draw a map that’s void of it,” said Jones speaking to reporters after the committee meeting.

But Democrat Marcia Price says that’s the wrong tact.

“I think when the court specifically directs you to fix a problem that was created and surgically manufactured based on race, that it is irresponsible and impossible to fix it without looking at the racial data,” she said.

In a statement Governor Ralph Northam says he is disappointed by the party-line and the majority’s “partisan map.”

“I’m convinced now more than ever that a nonpartisan process is necessary to draw a map that is fair and meets the court’s requirements.”

The legislation now goes to the full house. Jones says he’s hopeful he can get enough Democratic support to get it passed.

If lawmakers fail to come up with a new map before October 30th the court will step in and redraw district lines.

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

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