By Michael Clancy
Critical to empowering voters and, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “a government of the people, by the people and for the people” is the elimination of the gerrymandered electoral districts in Virginia. To that end, in November 2020, Virginians approved a constitutional amendment that established a bipartisan commission (composed of eight legislators and eight citizens) to draw new congressional, state senate and delegate district maps. For this redistricting, Virginia law mandates that these new districts:
- Reflect approximately equal populations with no more than a 5% deviation for state districts;
- Be composed of compact and contiguous territories;
- Adhere to legal requirements involving racial and ethnic fairness and not deny or abridge the rights of citizens on the basis of race, color, or language group;
- Preserve communities of interest (defined as a geographically defined population that shares social, cultural, or economic interests); and
- Not unduly favor or disfavor any political party on a statewide basis.
Since mid-July, the Redistricting Commission has been conducting public hearings for citizen input, and on July 27 held a hearing at GMU. There were approximately 20 speakers. These speakers were critical of gerrymandering, the arbitrary division of neighborhoods and precincts, and the failure of many districts, including specifically the 11th Congressional District, to reflect geographically compact territories and communities of interests. Speakers emphasized that districts should be politically competitive; not split neighborhoods and precincts; be drawn from a non-partisan perspective with no consideration given to protecting incumbents in the redistricting process; and that the commission should start with a blank Virginia map for a comprehensive drawing of the electoral districts from scratch and not simply tweak the existing districts.
Next the commission will be receiving the U.S. Census Data in mid-August. Then, upon receipt of the census data, the Commission has 45 days for the state senate and delegate maps and 60 days for the U.S. House of Representatives maps to submit the maps to the General Assembly for approval. For more information, see VirginiaRedistricting.org.
This article was first published by Virginia’s 11th District GOP Committee.