Democrats introduce bill in response to court’s order and Republicans’ inaction
Richmond – House Democrats have pre-filed a proposed map ahead of the special session on Thursday called by Governor Northam. At a press event on Wednesday, Democratic Leader David Toscano and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Lamont Bagby spoke on the merits of the Democratic plan and requested expeditious action by the Virginia General Assembly.
“The court has made clear its preference that we draw new maps to address the unconstitutionality of the districts drawn in 2011,” said Leader Toscano. “To date, we have seen no maps from the majority party to correct the problem.”
He called on the Republicans to immediately refer the bill to the House Privileges and Elections Committee so that the map may be considered on Thursday.
“First and foremost, the map we are introducing is compact, contiguous, and respects communities of interest,” said Leader Toscano. “We have complied with the court’s order and the U.S. Constitution to ensure that voters in the affected districts have an adequate voice in their representation.”
“When we find that the voting power of black Virginians is being diluted, we must do everything in our power to correct the situation as soon as possible,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chair Lamont Bagby. “The 2011 plan diluted African American influence in some districts by packing as many as possible into other districts.”
The House Democratic Caucus began working on new maps following the court’s order on June 26 that ruled that eleven districts between Hampton Roads and Richmond are racially gerrymandered in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The court suggested the General Assembly draw new maps by October 30, and on August 8, the court requested information from Republicans by August 24 on their intentions to draw a new map.
“The Republicans’ response to the court was essentially a ‘non-response,’ and they have done nothing but stall since the June 26 order,” said Leader Toscano.
On July 16, Leader Toscano asked Speaker Kirk Cox for a commitment to meet, but he received no response. On August 13, following the court’s second order to Republicans, Leader Toscano wrote to request a special session be called. Again, he received no response.
Key features of the Democratic map include:
- The map is compact, contiguous, and respects communities of interest, while addressing the court’s ruling.
- It is narrow and specific in focus – it addresses the districts necessary to fix the legal violation.
- The map was drawn using the +/- one percent population deviation between districts, a high standard in redistricting practices.
- The map significantly reduces the number of split precincts by 66% in the 11 impacted districts compared to 2011.
- The map does not use the unconstitutional racial voting targets of the majority party’s 2011 map and does not use race as the predominant criteria in drawing the maps.