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Redistricting commission won't finish legislative maps, turns attention to congressional districts
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Redistricting commission won't finish legislative maps, turns attention to congressional districts

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Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton (from left), Greta Harris of Richmond and Mackenzie Babichenko of Hanover County attended an August redistricting commission meeting. Harris and Babichenko are the commission’s co-chairs.

Virginia Redistricting: Here's why it matters

The Virginia Redistricting Commission will not finish its work on the state’s legislative maps, and will instead move on to drawing maps for the state’s congressional districts.

In an update issued Sunday afternoon, commission staff said the body will convene virtually Monday at 9 a.m. and hear guidance from counsel about next steps for a new map of the state’s 11 U.S. House districts.

The commission’s deadline to approve legislative maps for the General Assembly to consider is Monday, but the commission can’t take votes virtually, all but ensuring it will miss the deadline.

After a chaotic meeting Friday, some commission members had left the door open for continuing to work on legislative maps. The commission had the option to trigger a 14-day extension, but no vote to that effect was ever taken.

The commission has until Oct. 25 to finish its work on a new map of congressional districts.

If the commission fails to submit plans for legislative or congressional districts to the General Assembly for its consideration, the state Supreme Court becomes responsible for redrawing and establishing the new districts. The court would hire two experts, called “special masters,” who would work together to develop maps for the court’s consideration.

Once a meeting is adjourned, members of the redistricting commission may confer, but only in pairs. Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, a member of the commission, said Sunday that individual discussions over the weekend were not productive.

“My understanding from conversations over the weekend is that we are moving on to congressional maps because further discussion of legislative maps would not be fruitful,” Simon said.

Advocates involved in the process expressed disappointment.

“While it’s always been our hope and the hope of voters to see the commission successfully produce single maps on which they can agree, we have seen a failure of compromise from enough commissioners that has created an impasse for success,” said Erin Corbett, an advocate with the progressive Virginia Civic Engagement Table.

“We hope that focusing on drawing the maps of the 11 Congressional districts — versus the 140 state legislative districts — will provide the commissioners a renewed chance to reprioritize fair districts and fair processes.”

mleonor@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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