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With Monday Vote, SW Virginia Stays Unrepresented on Redistricting Commission

Commissioners sit behind a two-tired wooden dais. An American flag is in the background, and empty chairs are visible.
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ

Virginia’s Redistricting Commission chose a new member Monday, leaving the commission without a member from Southwest Virginia.

Virginia Trost-Thornton was approved 13-1. She is a lawyer from Forest, west of Lynchburg.

Marvin Gilliam, a Republican-member from Bristol, resigned from the commission citing a health and personal issue in his resignation letter. Gilliam was one of eight commissioners who are not a member of the General Assembly.

Most analysts expect Southwest Virginia to lose representation when new maps are drawn because of faster population growth in other parts of Virginia.

Geographic representation dominated the discussion over the vote. The commission is required to consider diversity, including geography, when choosing members. Commissioners also considered a candidate from McGaheysville in the Shenandoah Valley.

“We've been very committed to regionalism and otherwise,” said Senator Steve Newman. “I do think these two people are as close as we kind of get to Southwest, which is important: those people in Southwest deserve a kind of a vote.”

Trost-Thorton will come onto the commission less than a month before maps start to be drawn.

The meeting Monday was split between commissioners meeting in person and those participating remotely. Members seemed to be in disagreement about how to go about drawing maps and how much time would be required of the commission.

“If we don't preserve the time, we're just not going to be able to do the work once our clock starts ticking by law,” said Commissioner Sean Kumar.

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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