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Redistricting Commission Sets New Timeline

Redistricting Commission August 16.jpg
Jahd Khalil
/
Radio IQ
Members of Virginia's Redistricting Commission discuss how to proceed after the US Census Bureau released data used for drawing new political maps.

Staffers with the Department of Legislative Services had been advising the commission that the most conservative approach was to consider last week’s release of Census data as their start date. A constitutional amendment requires the commission to submit their first maps, for the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, to the General Assembly in 45 days after receiving census data. They have 60 days to submit US Congressional maps to the legislature.

But lawyers advising the commission said members could make a legal case for their official start date after the data is processed by a mapping firm hired by the commission.

“It may be possible to read the language to permit the august 26th date. The constitution and code talk about the receipt of the census data, in the context of the commission. So you might read that to mean when the commission receives the data as opposed to the date that the census pushes it out,” said Chris Bartolomucci, one of the lawyers hired to represent the Republican viewpoints.

Republican citizen commissioner Richard Harrell said voters would accept the new date as a common sense interpretation of “receipt.”

“I used to be in the trucking business, and if you ordered a load from me and I brought it to you in pieces and it's going to take you two weeks to put it together, you don’t have it until you got it put together,” he said.

The commissioners voted 14-1 with one abstention to consider August 26th their new start date.

Liz White, the Executive Director of OneVirginia2021 said in a text message that she was comfortable with that start date, given the legal counsel’s presentations.

“I also hope it helps them feel more comfortable starting with something other than the existing maps and exploring some of the other options they mentioned today,” she said.

The commission’s maps have to stand up to public scrutiny and political viability. There’s also several legal frameworks the maps and process need to consider.

Seven people from Southwest Virginia have already sued the commission. They argue criteria passed by the General Assembly to guide the commission are too restrictive, specifically legislation that would count incarcerated people at their residence before incarceration rather than in the correctional facilities they live in now.

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