Monday, 10 Dec 2018

Federal Court Releases Plans for Possible Redistribution in Virginia and Refuses to Delay Process

RICHMOND – A federal court released Friday night proposals to attract new districts of the House of Delegates to Virginia to repair 11 cases of racial gerrymander. The 131-page report, prepared by California professor Bernard Grofman, contains several proposals for drawing new districts that the court will review before the hearing scheduled for Jan. 10. Because the redesign of the 11 districts will affect adjacent areas, Grofman told the court that up to 26 districts will need to be redrawn. He divided the affected areas of the state into four zones and submitted several proposals for each zone, resulting in 36 possible combinations of maps. Districts are concentrated around Hampton Roads and Richmond. The control of the state legislature is in balance with the redistricting. The Democrats made huge gains last year and nearly wiped out a GOP majority, leaving Republicans only 51-49 out of 100 seats in the House. It is not clear whether one or the other of the parties would benefit from the proposals. The 26 affected districts are now occupied by a mix of Democrats and Republicans, some of which have been hotly contested in 2017. This includes the Del. David E. Yancey (R-Newport News), who won the trophy last year. draw after his election is over on a tie with his Democratic opponent. [Nonpartisan redistricting sought in Virginia] Grofman, a political scientist at the University of California at Irvine, has been named "special master" to oversee the redistricting process by a committee of the US District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. This court had decided in June that the eleven districts had been chosen so as to concentrate the black voters and deprive them of their representation. The court gave the general assembly of Virginia until October 30 to produce a new map, but when lawmakers failed to agree on a map that the Governor Ralph Northam (D) would support, the court appointed Grofman to oversee the process. Residents of 12 districts filed lawsuits in 2014, represented by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias. It was established that one of the districts had not been gerrymander, leaving the 11 currently involved. Also on Friday, the court rejected a request by House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) to postpone the June primary elections and the special master's cards until the US Supreme Court has appealed . The High Court agreed last month to deal with the issue but said it was primarily interested in whether the Republican leaders of the House had standing. [U.S. Supreme Court to take up Virginia case on racial gerrymandering] Cox said Friday night that he was disappointed by both this decision and the corrective cards proposed by Grofman. "The subsequent development of a corrective card will cause great confusion for candidates, election officials and voters, as evidenced by the large number of combinations presented by the Special Master," Cox said by e-mail. "We will review the special master's report as we determine our next steps and continue our appeal with the case pending before the US Supreme Court. At the end of the day, we believe that the current map, which has been adopted by a bipartite majority, will be maintained. Democrats welcomed the report. "We are pleased that the district court has rejected the House of Republicans' latest delay and that the redistricting process continues," the executive director of the House Caucus, the Democratic Caucus, said by email. He also called on Republicans in the House to join the support of a constitutional amendment aimed at creating an independent and non-political division. Grofman stated in his report that the suggested maps did not use race as the predominant criterion and that they were trying to keep up with county boundaries and other political boundaries as much as possible. He added that districts were also attracted by "blindness" to partisan results and said that, to the extent possible, no district would have two delegates in place. .

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