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A Silver Lining of Redistricting Census Delays

Population data from the 2020 Census was scheduled to be in the hands of Virginia’s Redistricting Commission in March. Now that it’s expected to arrive in August and September, the commissioners are taking the time to get acquainted with each other, and the processes of government business.

In Tuesday’s meeting of the commission, co-chair Greta Harris made a request of her fellow members.

“Please remember to state your name before speaking, and especially before making a motion,” she said. “This helps in keeping track of what is happening throughout the meeting.”

This simple ask is a small sign of a bigger issue: the commission is made up of legislators and citizens who don’t know each other. And some citizen members aren’t intimately familiar with how to conduct government business. With a few months to go before data arrives and map-drawing begins, commissioners are using that time to learn.

“I think it's actually going to be very helpful to the commissioners to have this extra time, to get trained up, to take a little more time learning about not only the redistricting process, but just the process of working together on a board,” said Del. Marcus Simon.

Once the commission receives census data, they only have 45 days to draw new maps for the House of Delegates' districts, and 60 days for US congressional districts. 

Tuesday’s meeting covered requests governed by the FOIA, and oriented members about what is legally considered meetings and government business. On the agendas for future meetings are orientations regarding Robert’s Rules of Order, legal standards for redistricting, and the software commissioners will use as they draw maps. The commission’s next meeting is Tuesday, April 13th.

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

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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