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Redistricting Fight Heads to Dramatic Conclusion


Democrats are divided over how to handle redistricting next year after the Census. And the final few days of the General Assembly session will see a dramatic vote on that issue.

Republicans are united in their support of an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would create a bipartisan commission to draw legislative districts. Democrats, though, are divided.

One of the amendment’s chief critics is Delegate Mark Levine of Alexandria, who spoke on the House floor about reaction he heard after the amendment cleared a committee vote earlier this week.  “I got a text from a friend, a fellow Virginian. And the text says, and I quote, ‘Why do we bother to elect Democrats if they just willingly hand their power back to Republicans anyway? Your colleagues are bringing a bouquet of flowers to a gunfight.’”

He’s concerned that the maps might eventually be drawn by a Republican-dominated Virginia Supreme Court. But another Democratic Delegate, Schuyler Van Valkenburg, says the enabling legislation creates special masters to draw the maps.  “Do the Republicans really want a world where special masters are drawing maps? Because special masters have traditionally drawn fairer maps than legislatures, which benefits Democrats because Democrats have better ideas.”

The Senate has already approved the amendment, and the House is set for a final vote in the last few days of the session. If House members approve the amendment, it’ll be headed to voters for final approval this 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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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