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Critics Say Citizen Members of Virginia's New Redistricting Commission Aren't Balanced

Last year, voters approved a new commission to draw political boundaries for the General Assembly and Congress. Now, that commission is taking shape.

For the first time in Virginia history, citizens will play a role in drawing lines for the House of Delegates, the state Senate and Congress. A panel of judges selected eight citizens, six men and two women.  


Brian Cannon of One Virginia 2021 says this is a milestone for redistricting. 


"Although we would have liked a more even split in terms of gender identity, there's a reality here that no 16 individuals can fully represent every facet of Virginia," Cannon says. "But this will be by far and away the most diverse group of people to ever draw district lines in Virginia history." 


Critics say the citizen members are not very balanced. None of the new members are working class, and the one resident from Southwest Virginia is a wealthy businessman who's contributed about $1 million to Republicans. Only one identifies as having Hispanic descent.  


Trevor Southerland is a former senior advisor to Fair Districts Virginia. 


"I'm sure they're all good people. I'm sure they signed up for good reasons, and I'm sure they're going to try to do their best," Southerland explains. "But the system was set up to fail, and anybody who voted yes on the amendment, this is what you voted for." 


The next step for the commission is to hold a meeting and choose a chair. Then they'll wait around for Census data that could be delayed during the presidential transition.


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.