As the General Assembly’s session enters its second half, both the House and Senate have passed competing plans on how to redraw legislative districts. But groups that have been fighting gerrymandering prefer the Senate’s proposal, saying it would do more to take politics out of the process. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned that without the proper provisions, the General Assembly may be doomed to repeat mistakes made in 2011 when legislators gerrymandered several Virginia districts for their own benefit by diluting the voting power of African-Americans. Those districts were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and had to be redrawn. Some legislators say there’s an easy fix to make sure it doesn’t happen again: Create an independent commission to redraw the lines, and take the process out of the hands of politicians.
At the start of the legislative session, lawmakers offered nine different proposals to establish independent redistricting commissions. They have now been narrowed down to two.
Senate Joint Resolution 306, sponsored by Democratic Sen. George Barker of Alexandria, sailed through the Senate last week with unanimous support. House Joint Resolution 615, sponsored by Republican Del. Mark Cole of Spotsylvania County, was narrowly approved by the House on Monday on a party-line vote, 51-48.
Both resolutions would amend the Virginia Constitution to create bipartisan commissions tasked with redrawing district lines in 2021, but the plans have some key differences: