On April 4, lawmakers from across the Commonwealth will return to Richmond to consider maps that draw new State Senate and House districts. The maps were drawn under the leadership of Chris Jones(R) in the House of Delegates and George L. Barker (D) in the Virginia Senate. Delegate Jones also provided leadership to redistricting 10 years ago.
Maps drawn by students from 13 Virginia colleges and recommendations from a bi-partisan commission appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell will be politely received, however, they will largely be ignored in this highly political and partisan process.
Congressional District maps will be considered later in the year. Several City Councils in Hampton Roads will also be required to draw new voting districts.
All plans in Virginia are subject to approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Under federal law, a number of districts must be drawn with majority non-white populations. In Virginia there are 12 House seats and five Senate seats in “majority-minority” districts. The State Attorney-General’s office reviews the plans prior to federal review.
It is widely anticipated that the Republican controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic controlled Virginia Senate will vote to approve their own plans and also vote to approve the other Chamber’s maps.
Several consultants have been hired to support the redistricting process. The Republican caucus utilized attorney Chris Marston and Caliper Corporation which has redistricting software known as Maptitude. Senator Barker utilized Dave’s Redistricting Software on the Democratic side in drawing his maps for the Virginia Senate.
Hampton Roads is facing a net loss in representation in the House and Senate as population growth in both Northern Virginia and Richmond have surpassed our region. The House plan currently places Delegate Paula Miller (D) and Delegate Linwood Lewis(D) in the same district. The Senate plan under consideration places Senator Jeff McWaters(R) and Senator Frank Wagner(R) in the same district.
Critics of the current redistricting process believe that drawing new maps should be a more open and less partisan exercise. Most observers agree that the system protects incumbents and lacks outside influence. The one certainty is that in November, Virginia voters will be casting their ballots in newly drawn districts. The Chamber will keep you informed on this issue.
View the proposed new districts to see where your business or home is proposed to be located at the Virginia Public Access Projects web-site at www.vpap.org.
Ira Agricola is Senior Vice President at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at 757-664-2570.