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Six candidates recommended as 'special masters' to help justices with Virginia redistricting
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Six candidates recommended as 'special masters' to help justices with Virginia redistricting

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Virginia Supreme Court, which is housed at Ninth and Franklin streets.

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have nominated six candidates — three from each party — to assist the Virginia Supreme Court in redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional districts using new census data.

Under the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year, the redistricting job fell to the high court when the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission ended in a partisan deadlock. Rules published by the justices called for the party leaders of the House of Delegates and the Senate to recommend three or more special masters to help the justices draw the maps and they did so Monday.

The Democrats nominated:

Bernard N. Grofman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, who served as special master to courts in drawing Virginia congressional districts in 2015 and the Virginia House of Delegates districts in 2018; Nathaniel Persily, a professor at the Stanford Law School who has served as a court-appointed special master for state legislative and congressional maps in other states and the author of “Solutions to Polarization,” published in 2015; and Bruce E. Cain, a professor at the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, who served as a court-appointed special master to draw state legislative districts in Arizona in 2002 and has been a redistricting consultant to government agencies including the Attorney General of Maryland.

The Republicans nominated:

Thomas Bryan, a former statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau who founded a demographic analysis consulting firm for bipartisan clients including expert witness services in state and local redistricting cases; Adam Kincaid, previously the redistricting coordinator for the National Republican Congressional Committee and now the executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust and Fair Lines America; and Adam Foltz, who served as the primary redistricting map drawer for the Wisconsin State Assembly Republican Caucus during the 2011-12 cycle, prepared Wisconsin’s defense against challenges to district maps and who is now a legislative analyst for the Texas Legislative Council and is working to draft new maps.

According to a finance report filed by the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, Bryan was paid $20,000 in consulting fees by the caucus in September.

State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, commenting on the Republican nominees, said, “The [Democratic] Senate caucus’s position is these maps ought to be drawn by impartial, national experts — the types of people normally hired by courts — to resolve these types of conflicts and not political consultants or party operatives.”

Jeff Ryer, spokesman for Senate Republicans, said, “The Democrats will say that the Republicans who aren’t academics are political hacks. But as evidenced by the record and the court cases by which they’ve involved themselves, the academics are ... hacks with extra letters after their names.”

“They’re all college professors. Can you name another profession in this country that has a higher level of support for the Democratic Party?” Ryer asked. He said, “Neither side is going to put forward individuals that they think are not going to do a fantastic job for them.”

The Virginia Supreme Court rules state in part that “the Court will select, by a majority vote, two special masters — one special master from each of the lists submitted by the legislative leaders.”

“The persons appointed to serve as special masters should have the requisite qualifications and experience to serve as a special master and should have no conflicts of interest,” the rules state. “In making its appointments, the Court should consider any relevant redistricting experience in the Commonwealth and any practical or academic experience in the field of redistricting.”

Surovell said it is undefined what would constitute a conflict of interest. “We’re in virgin timber here,” he said.

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