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Citizen Advocates Push Redistricting Reform Beyond VA Special Session

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A federal court ruling requiring the Virginia General Assembly to redraw its legislative district boundaries could eventually affect partisan control of the House. (Pixabay)
A federal court ruling requiring the Virginia General Assembly to redraw its legislative district boundaries could eventually affect partisan control of the House. (Pixabay)
August 31, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – Just like deja vu, Virginia lawmakers are back in Richmond for a special session to comply with a court order to redraw congressional districts – and their critics argue they're back to making the same mistakes.

House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a proposal they claim would adjust the state's legislative maps to make them more fair. But Brian Cannon, executive director of the group OneVirgina2021, thinks lawmakers should form a commission to draw legislative boundaries, instead of politicians and their consultants.

"We could've had community meetings, a transparent process, maps drawn by folks that aren't on a run for election in the districts, some kind of advisory committee or some such,” says Cannon, “and we didn't."

The special session comes after a federal court found 11 legislative districts were gerrymandered in violation of the state Constitution. Republicans are appealing the ruling – however, the court has ordered lawmakers to redraw the state voting-district map by October 30th.

Cannon says his mission is to end gerrymandering altogether in Virginia, through a citizen-led constitutional amendment to create a transparent process for redrawing the district maps. He believes the courts will have to step in once again and complete the maps, as happened a few years ago when lawmakers were also ordered to redraw congressional districts.

"It looks like the courts are going to end up doing this,” says Cannon. “So, what I'm really focused on is, we need a better process going forward and hopefully, we will start that. We have a constitutional amendment to get going in January of this coming session. That's our real goal."

Republicans have said in a court filing that redistricting is a "political process," and that they might be willing to get more public input. They've asked the court to put the deadline on hold, pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA