You may remember voting “yes” or “no” on last year’s ballot to amend the state’s constitution and authorize the establishment of the Virginia Redistricting Commission to develop new electoral maps for Virginia’s state and congressional legislative districts. That measure passed and marked a significant change to the redistricting process, as the General Assembly has been responsible for drawing maps in the past. The bipartisan commission, which is composed of four members of the House of Delegates, four members of the Senate of Virginia, and eight citizen members, began work this year, but has faced delayed Census data, multiple procedural issues, and a consistent lack of consensus, all while operating under a tight deadline. So, if you are confused as to where they are in the process, you’re not alone.
The commission must submit new state House and Senate maps to the General Assembly for approval by October 10, 2021 and new Congressional maps by October 25, 2021. When drawing the maps, criteria that must be followed include guidelines related to population equality, voting rights and political participation, communities of interest, and political neutrality. A Democratic consulting team and a Republican consulting team have each drawn draft maps to present to the commission for review. While the goal was to submit one House and one Senate map to the public for comments prior to the deadline, the commission was unable to agree on what those maps should look like; therefore 41 different maps are now available online, including several submitted by citizens.
Without a doubt, for both commission members and the general public, this is an overwhelming amount of data to digest. Fortunately, the Virginia Public Access Project has done an excellent job at covering the current redistricting process. Just by inputting your address here, you can see how the different plans would impact your representation.
Concerned about how the plans may affect you or your locality? The commission has presented several opportunities for public comment:
1. Submission through email. Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be posted on the commission’s website at: https://www.virginiaredistricting.org. These comments will be available to the commission for review and consideration.
2. Submission through regular mail. Comments may be sent by regular mail to the following address:
Virginia Redistricting Commission – Pocahontas Building, 8th Floor 900 E. Main Street – Richmond, VA 23219
3. Submission through public comment portal. The various proposed maps are posted on the commission’s website. These interactive maps have a feature that allow members of the public to select an area of interest on the map and enter their comments about that area.
1. In person. At in-person public hearings of the commission, members of the public can attend the hearing and provide live, in-person comments to the commission. Sign-up will be on site, beginning one hour prior to the hearing start time and ending one hour after the hearing begins.
2. Virtual. At both in-person and virtual public hearings of the commission, members of the public may attend the hearing virtually and provide live comments to the commission. Those wishing to provide virtual comment at a hearing must sign up prior to the hearing, using a link that will be provided in advance of the hearing on the Meetings & Public Hearings page of the commission’s website. Members of the public must register at least 24 hours before the time of the in-person or virtual public hearing.
A public hearing schedule by region can be found here, and public hearing FAQs can be found here.
More to come as this process continues to unfold!