As Virginia lawmakers get started on the 2019 session of the General Assembly, an unlikely bipartisan duo has a proposal to fix gerrymandering in the commonwealth. Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican representing Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley, and Senator Mamie Locke, a Democrat representing Hampton in the Eastern Shore, have joined forces to propose a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and create an independent commission of citizens tasked with drawing election boundaries. “You can’t take politics out of the redistricting process, it’s political in nature, but you can set up a process if our constitution allows it,” Senator Hanger told us.
Senate Joint Resolution 274 would create a “Citizens Redistricting Commission” that would be open to the public. Members would ultimately be chosen by a series of committees made up of leaders in both houses of the General Assembly and retired Virginia Circuit Court judges.
Following that process, a 10-member committee would be charged with drawing the boundaries of all 140 General Assembly districts and Virginia’s 11 congressional districts after the 2020 Census.
Provisions in the bill require that the district lines not favor any party or candidate, not abridge minority voters’ choice, and respect municipal boundaries as well.