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Redistricting Debate Likely to Take Center Stage Again Next Month in Richmond

One of the biggest issues in next year’s General Assembly session is likely to be a leftover issue from last year — gerrymandering.

In the final few days of the last General Assembly session, lawmakers approved a plan to create a bipartisan commission to draw districts for the House of Delegates and state Senate — a proposal designed to prevent partisan gerrymandering.

Delegate Mark Levine voted for it, but now he says he’ll vote against it because the way the commission is organized so that any two lawmakers on it could object. 

“Then the decision making goes entirely to the Virginia Supreme Court," Levine explains. "Which can establish districts without any standards whatsoever. Yes, they can gerrymander as much as they like.”

No they can’t says Brian Cannon at the advocacy group One Virginia 2021, at least not if lawmakers take action to create guardrails for the Supreme Court. 

“So that if it ever did get there, to our state Supreme Court, they would have to hire a qualified special master who is not somebody’s partisan political hack," Cannon says. "And that person would have to abide by clear rules that put communities first.”

Cannon says that implementing language is already being drafted, and he’s already identified patrons for it in the House and Senate. If the proposed constitutional amendment passes the General Assembly a second time in 2020, it will go voters for a statewide referendum next fall.

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.