Almost 66% of Virginians voted in favor of the Constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission. As a reminder, this referendum was on the most recent ballot after two years of making its way through the General Assembly, as is the procedure for amending the Constitution.
The legislature met for a special session earlier this year to deal with COVID-19 relief, criminal justice reform, and the budget. There were proposals to implement language in the budget to include some of the parameters for the redistricting commission process.
After some pushback, the decision was made to postpone approving the budget language until after voters determined the fate of the amendment.
Last week the General Assembly passed the finalized language. Some of the parameters include:
- A ban on people who hold partisan offices, political aides, lobbyists, and others from serving on the citizen seats of the commission.
- Taking into consideration the “racial, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity” of Virginia in making commission appointments.
- A requirement that the commission’s records, including internal communications, will be public and subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
- A ban on commission members in discussing redistricting-related matters “outside of a public meeting or hearing.”
- A requirement that the Supreme Court of Virginia appoint two experts to draw maps if the commission and the General Assembly fail to agree on their own.
- A requirement that any Supreme Court judge related to a member of Congress or the General Assembly recuse themselves from redistricting decisions.
The constitutionally created 16-person commission will be responsible for redrawing legislative districts in Virginia. It will be made up of half Democrats and half Republicans and will also be split equally between citizens and legislators.
The selection process will begin in the next few weeks so that the commission can begin meeting as early as February. The intention is for the commission to redraw the districts using the new 2021 Census Data, making it an incredibly important group. We'll keep you updated as this reform effort continues to unfold!