Redistricting reform has been a hot-button issue in Virginia over the past several years, and the 2020 session is going to be critical for cementing reforms. The Virginia constitution requires districts that are “compact” and “contiguous,” which they currently are not. Federal courts have already invalidated these districts as unconstitutional and ordered the General Assembly to revise the boundaries based on the court’s parameters. To address the issues of partisan and racial gerrymandering, both chambers passed legislation last year to create an independent 16-member commission made up of 8 citizens and 8 legislators (4 from the Senate and 4 from the House), who will draw new district lines after the 2020 census. The legislation had unanimous support in the Senate but did draw criticism from the African American caucus in the House of Delegates, who were concerned that the commission would have no African American representation.
The passage of the 2019 legislation was momentous, but only the first step in a multiyear process to officially amend the state constitution. The General Assembly will have to pass the same measure this session, which will then be followed by a statewide ballot referendum for all Virginians in the fall of 2020. The legislation must pass both hurdles before being integrated into the Virginia constitution in time for the 2020 census results.
These requirements can be seen in various pieces of proposed legislation, along with some proposals that have varying requirements for the composition of the commission and different roles for the General Assembly.
: Declares that incarcerated people who lived in the Commonwealth prior to incarceration reside in their previous address for purposes of redistricting and reapportionment.
HB 380, SB 236, SB 358
: Call for a voter referendum to approve or reject the Constitutional amendment for redistricting.
HB 381, HB 758, HB 877, SB 203
: Create an independent commission comprised of four senators, four delegates, and eight citizens, with equal representation of democrats and republicans. The citizen commissioners would be selected by a committee of retired circuit court judges. This legislation is contingent on a voter referendum approving the changes.
: Creates an independent commission comprised of four senators, four delegates, and eight citizens, with equal representation of democrats and republicans. This bill would allow the General Assembly the discretion to reject the commission’s proposals.
: Creates an independent commission comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and three neutral members, none of whom would be a part of the General Assembly. The commission’s determination would have to be made by seven of the eleven members. This commission would also have to be “representative, as a whole, of the geographic, racial, and gender diversity” of Virginia.
: Proposes a constitutional amendment that gives the General Assembly the authority to make adjustments to legislative district boundaries.
HJ 34, HJ 71, SJ 12, SJ 18
: Propose a constitutional amendment to establish a sixteen-member redistricting commission with the authority to establish legislative districts.
Redistricting has been a long and complex battle in Virginia. If you’re interested in learning even more, check out OneVirginia2021 for additional resources!