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Redistricting Commission Seeks Partisan Counsel, Citizen Member Democrats Oppose

Citizen members that were selected by Democrats broke away from the rest of Virginia’s Redistricting Commission in two votes over the character of legal counsel the commission would hire in a meeting Monday.

Voters approved a hybrid approach to redistricting in the hopes that it could take partisanship out of the process. Observers have wondered how legislators would differ in their approaches from members coming from the general assembly, and the differences were on display on Monday.

The commission was voting on whether to hire lawyers with a political affiliation: one Republican-leaning firm, another leaning Democrat. Senator Steve Newman said partisanship in this field was a reality.

There are very few individuals that do this work at all, and all of them do it from one party or the other,” said Newman. “That unicorn out there really doesn't exist.”

Greta Harris, a housing advocate on the commission, said they should at least try to find a non-partisan firm.

“I don't think it hurts anything to be able to put out both strategies for trying to get the best legal counsel that keeps us within the spirit and intent of the law, said Harris.

Eventually both of these proposals came up for a vote. Most of the commission voted in favor of having two partisan firms. All of the citizen members who were chosen by the democrats supporting looking for a non-Partisan firm. Delegate Marcus Simon, also a Democrat, voted for that proposal too.

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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