The background to the redistricting process is starting to emerge.

In the Post, Anita Kumar explains how the redistricting proposals came about:

This year, despite the appointment of a bipartisan commission to advise legislators, the lines were largely drawn by two men: Sen. George L. Barker (D), a health-care planner from Prince William County, and Rep. S. Chris Jones (R), a pharmacist from Suffolk.

The pair were part of a small cadre of legislators who worked quietly to draw the maps with input primarily from the majority party in each house. Fewer than 10 of the state’s 140 legislators were privy to the lines before they were made public last week, according to lawmakers and aides.

And how did Barker model his redistricting theories? Using Dave’s Redistricting. I don’t know whether to be depressed or pleased.

Also, it turns out that Del. Rob Bell assisted Jones in drawing the house maps, which only makes the crazy proposed boundaries for his district even more inexplicable. (The Daily News Record weighed in against the proposed lines in an editorial today.)

And what of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “bipartisan redistricting committee”? Well, it’s more of a fig leaf than ever. McDonnell only established the commission in January—far too late to give them time to actually produce anything useful early enough for the legislature to even pretend to consider it—which is presumably why their recommendations weren’t issued until late last night, giving the legislature one half of one working day to even consider them. (Rather a brief period in which to review 151 districts.) The governor is already trying to distance himself from those recommendations—spokesman Tucker Martin told Tyler Whitley that “the recommendations of the commission are theirs alone; they are not recommendations by the governor.”

The Daily Press quotes my friend Sean O’Brien on the topic:

Committee member Sean O’Brien said the real change is likely to come during Virginia’s 2021 redraw.

“I feel like we’re laying the groundwork, the foundation for 10 years from now,” O’Brien said. “So that we’re not in a position of having public hearings in four days.”

We’re always hoping to get them right next time around. Why should it be any different in 2021?

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

14 replies on “The background to the redistricting process is starting to emerge.”

  1. If nobody seems to like the proposed new districts very much, and even McDonnell is distancing himself from his commission’s proposals, why do this at all? They should just vote to keep it all the same as it already was. Not that the current districts are especially good, but at least we’re used to them and people understand who their legislators are and where they are supposed to vote.

  2. Because it’s illegal. Under state law, no district can be more than 5% larger or smaller than any other district. Many districts deviate significantly from that, which is a violation of the one man, one vote principle.

  3. the unfortunate thing is that the HOD settled on a 1% deviance and the Senate on 2% from targets, which did not allow for the major goals of the commission, compactness, communities of interest and non-splitting of jurisdictions to be realized. the LWV was on board with the 5% variance, but that did not meet the needs of the folks who drew the districts…

  4. Well, I’m certainly glad that I disregarded the suggestion of my professional association to attend a commission hearing and “make my voice heard”. Making my voice heard is one thing, holding the Guv’s fig leaf is someone else’s job! That was the wimpiest defense of “bipartisan redistricting” ever.

  5. Given that we don’t have “bipartisan” redistricting. This year’s plans aren’t as bad as everyone has been saying. The issue is just getting more attention this time around. The Dem’s drew what they hope will be +2 Senate map for them, same thing the GOP did in the 2001 redistricting. The House Republicans drew a +4 map. Far less aggresive than their 2001 redistricting map. Granted, they have fewer targets to shoot at this time.

  6. “Can you separate the gerrymanders from the inkblots?

    Play “Howell or Rorschach?” to find out!”

    I like it. :)

    Of course, it’s doubly misleading. First because district boundaries can be entirely sensible—even ideal—and still look strange when displayed as cut-outs, divorced from their context. And second because the Senate Republican Caucus is inherently pretending that somehow the senate districts are stranger than the house districts, although I appreciate that the house isn’t really of their concern.

  7. I think that there’s a great deal to like about term limits but, ultimately, I think they’re a mistake, largely on grounds of fundamental freedoms. If an otherwise-qualified candidate is supported by a supermajority of the population, I think it’s just goofy to say “well, never mind who you want—y’all have to pick somebody else.”

    That said, I think that term limits for the presidency are OK. How can I reconcile this? I can’t—it’s rank hypocrisy. :)

  8. It seems to me that if the state senate and HOD were term limited they would be more likely to be fair with redistricting.

  9. Tom- There are state legislatures that are term-limited, California for one. I can’t recall hearing that they were models to follow as far as redistricting.

  10. Tom -Yeah, I wasn’t criticizing you on it (although I’m not a fan of term limits, for much the reason that Waldo stated) just pointing out that it doesn’t seem to have worked that way.

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