Redistricting Reform in Virginia

Virginia’s State Senate has passed a proposal for a redistricting commission that blends elements of the Arizona, Iowa, and Prop 77 approaches.

– The bill would have the State Supreme Court name a pool of 24 retired judges, divided equally among Republicans and Democrats. (Retired judges as commissioners, as in Prop 77)

– Legislative Leaders would then choose 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats from that pool, and those four commissioners would choose a fifth commissioner. (Similar to Arizona’s process)

– The plans drawn by the commission would go to the legislature for review. The legislature can send them back twice with a request to the commission to revise the plans. The third time the commission sends the plans to the legislature, the legislature can amend them like any other bill. (This is how Iowa works).

In a curious twist, the commission along with its staff and counsel draw an initial map using only census data and, by law, no public input. Then that plan is released and a series of at least five public hearings begin. This is probably an improvement on the Arizona “grid” system, but it will certainly start the process with a lot of criticism aimed at the commission.

Unfortunately, the bill’s prospects in the State Assembly are doubtful.

See below the fold for the actual text of the bill and a press and commentary roundup.

Check out the actual bill language and the website of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition.

See the article by Drew Houff in The Winchester Star:

By a vote of 33-5, the Virginia Senate has approved a bill creating a bipartisan committee to handle the redistricting of seats in the General Assembly and Congress.

The measure, introduced by Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, would establish a five-member temporary commission to prepare redistricting plans in 2011 and each 10 years thereafter for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and the state’s congressional districts.

See this blog post and audio clip on Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds by Chris Graham at the Augusta Free Press as well as the AP report and Mason Adams’ article in the Roanoke Times.

Not everyone in the press likes the reform; the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record says:

The plan, cobbled together by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, would hand over the drawing of district lines to a seven-member independent panel, but would give the General Assembly final say over the new political map – which is tantamount to re-opening the whole Pandora’s box of gerrymandering. Nonetheless, Mr. Deeds’ bill enjoys wide support, from Democrats such as Gov. Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner to Republicans like Lt. Gov. BillBolling and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen.

Matt Johnston has some commentary at Going to the Mat blog.

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