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Redistricting Commission Fails to Agree on Consensus Map Ahead of Public Comment Period

Virginia Redistricting Commission meets October 2, 2021
Jahd Khalil
/
RadioIQ
The Virginia Redistricting Commission met on October 2nd, 2021, but did not agree on a consensus set of maps ahead of a public comment period over the following week.

The Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to agree on one set of maps in a meeting Saturday. The commission was working towards incorporating public feedback into their working draft, but with no single set of maps for the House of Delegates and State Senate, citizens will have over 40 maps to look at.

It was widely understood that the commission would submit two maps to the public - one for the house and one for the Senate.

There are 21 publicly maps for the House of Delegates online, and 20 for the State Senate, and many haven’t even been discussed by the commission. Senator Ryan McDougle said he worried pushing one map forward before a real consensus was reached could box the commission in.

“Could that be interpreted at some point in time as the commission’s position or where we came to consensus?” he said.

The public can comment on proposed political districts in a string of virtual hearings this week.

Richmond Delegate Delores McQuinn said by having partisan lawyers and partisan map drawers, the commission was unlikely to agree on a consensus map.

“We’re at this place, okay? We could have not expected anything else other than to be where we are,” she said, arguing that they had to make the best out of the failure, using a baking metaphor.

“Some people toss it out. No, that's not what I do. I find a way to remake what I've made,” she said. “I will cut the cake up and put strawberry and whipped cream to come with a better way of using what, the time that I'm putting into the cake, the energy that I've put into the cake.”

The sticking point again and again has been over how minorities fit into the new districts.

“We've made progress in the historical gerrymandering experience that we've sometimes had as a Commonwealth,” said Co-chair Greta Harris. “And now we're down to: Are the proposed maps reflecting the current reality in the Commonwealth, given significant demographic shifts that continue to occur in our state? And that comes down to which way the maps are leaning politically, and it comes down to racial representation.”

Harris, who will chair the final meeting on Friday before an October 10th deadline for State Senate and House of Delegates maps, said she was anxious.

"I'm at a loss as to how we go forward," she said. "The thought of what next Friday's meeting is going to be like turns my stomach right now."

The public needs to sign up to comment by noon the day before the public hearings. You can find a list of the public hearings here.

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.