RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Supreme Court of Virginia said Tuesday that it had unanimously approved maps establishing congressional and state legislative districts under the commonwealth’s new redistricting process.
In an order, the court said it had reviewed final redistricting maps — which were put together by two court appointees called special masters — as well as extensive public comment on earlier draft maps.
The special masters fully complied with state and federal law in creating the maps, the court said. The final maps are approved and adopted, effective immediately, according to the court order.
The once-a-decade redrawing of political maps had fallen to the court after a newly created bipartisan redistricting commission failed to agree on maps for either Congress or the General Assembly.
The special masters who drew the maps, Sean Trende and Bernard Grofman, were nominated by each political party. The process also included public comment both in writing and through hearings before the court.
“We drew maps which did not unduly favor either party. These maps came about as part of a partisan and incumbency blind process based on good government map making,” Trende and Grofman wrote in a 63-page memo dated Monday that outlines some of the many changes made between the draft and final versions of the maps.
Trende and Grofman wrote in their memo that the maps reflect “a true joint effort.”
They said they agreed on almost all issues initially, “and the few issues on which we initially disagreed were resolved by amicable discussion.”
Interested parties were reviewing the maps late Tuesday. None of the General Assembly caucuses had any immediate comment.
OneVirginia2021, a redistricting reform advocacy group that supported the ballot measure creating the new redistricting process, said in a statement that a first glance at the maps and memo showed the special masters “went above and beyond to incorporate as many specific public comments as possible.”
Trende and Grofman wrote in the memo that under the new Congressional maps, like in their draft version, they would generally expect a 6-5 Democratic edge in Virginia’s congressional delegation, compared with the 7-4 advantage the party holds now.
They also acknowledged criticism from some parties who said they had paid insufficient attention to protecting incumbents, either by weakening congressional members’ districts or pairing together multiple state lawmakers.
“We believe that one reason for employing redistricting commissions, however, is to minimize the power of politicians over the drawing of lines,” the memo said.