Virginia Redistricting Commission members walk out of meeting as panel remains stuck in partisan impasse

Virginia Politics

Screenshot of Friday’s Virginia Redistricting Commission meeting after the three citizen members walked out.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Facing a deadline to submit new legislative maps to the General Assembly, the Virginia Redistricting Commission on Friday reached another partisan impasse over how to move forward with the process.

But unlike the other times when commissioners disagreed along party lines, frustration boiled over during Friday’s meeting and eventually drove three citizen members to walk out after they couldn’t come to a compromise. One of those members, Democratic co-chair Greta Harris, said she was removing herself from the commission.

“Regrettably, I am done,” Harris said Friday. “I will remove myself from the commission at this point.”

After a full slate of public hearings this week, the redistricting commission met Friday to go over new proposed maps for the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. But when it came down to vote on the unfinished maps they would use as a starting point, the 16-member bipartisan commission remained split along party lines.

Democrats appeared set to agree on using one of the House map proposals from the Republican map-drawers and one of the Senate map proposals from the Democratic map-drawers, stressing that the maps would be used as starting points and that they would eventually be altered.

Republican members of the commission didn’t agree to the compromise, arguing the Senate map had just been made available and they needed more time to look the districts over.

Before walking out and announcing her departure, Harris said she didn’t feel that every person on the 16-member bipartisan panel, split evenly with eight citizen members and eight lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, was sincere about coming to an agreement.

In the evening after the meeting, Harris told 8News in an email, “I did not resign nor did my other citizen colleagues on the commission. We just left the meeting.” 

Hoping to end gerrymandering in Virginia, voters decided they wanted a bipartisan commission to be in charge of the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing political maps.

Virginia’s Constitution requires the new 16-member redistricting commission to submit its plans for new legislative maps to the General Assembly “no later than 45 days” after receiving 2020 Census data. That deadline is Sunday, but the law also gives the commission another 14 days if they fail to submit maps or if the legislature rejects them.

It remains unclear if the commission will convene for its meeting scheduled for Saturday.

If the commission comes to a compromise, they will send their proposed maps to the General Assembly for an up-or-down vote. If the maps are voted down or if no agreement is reached, the process will be in the hands of the Virginia Supreme Court.

UPDATE: The commission’s meeting set for Saturday was cancelled after publication.

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