RICHMOND — The eight legislators who will make up half of Virginia’s newly created redistricting commission have been formally named to their roles, as the selection of the eight citizen members who will work alongside them moves ahead.
Virginia’s legislative leaders on Tuesday finalized their selections for the four Democrats and four Republicans who will sit on the commission, which will be tasked in 2021 with redrawing the state’s political districts for the House of Delegates and Virginia’s U.S. House seats.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday named Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and George Barker, D-Fairfax, to serve on the commission.
“These two leaders have the experience, knowledge and historical context of redistricting, and are also keenly aware of the importance of making sure we have diverse representation in our commissioners,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.
Senate Republicans announced they had selected Sens. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, and Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.
Also Tuesday, House Republicans named Dels. Les Adams, R-Pittsylvania, and Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, to the panel.
“Last month Virginians overwhelmingly voted in support of creating a new panel to ensure that Virginia’s legislative mapmaking process isn’t subject to political games. To that end, I have appointed [Dels. Adams and Ransone] to the Virginia Redistricting Commission, both of whom supported the creation of the Commission throughout,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert in a statement, alluding to the selection by House Democrats of two lawmakers who opposed the constitutional amendment.
House Democrats, who overwhelmingly opposed the constitutional amendment, on Monday had selected Dels. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, and Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, to serve on the panel.
Two of the eight lawmakers selected for the panel — Locke and McQuinn — are African American. African Americans make up about 20% of the state’s population, according to population estimates.
Two of the lawmakers — McDougle and McQuinn — are from the Richmond area, two are from Northern Virginia, two are from Southwest Virginia, one is from the Northern Neck and one is from Hampton Roads.
The selection of the commission’s eight citizen members is ongoing.
Monday was the first day that Virginians could apply to be members of the panel. The application and instructions are available at the redistricting portion of the Division of Legislative Services website at https://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov. The deadline to apply is Dec. 28.
Legislative leaders from both parties in both chambers will create short lists of citizen applicants who they want to serve on the commission. Final selections will be made by a panel of five retired circuit court judges who agreed to serve in the role, created with the input of legislative leaders from both parties. The judges will have until Jan. 15 to make their selections.
The commission is the product of a successful push to amend the state constitution, curbing the legislature’s sweeping control over redistricting with the hope that a bipartisan commission would help end gerrymandering. The constitutional amendment on redistricting attracted the support of 66% of voters.
If the bipartisan commission of lawmakers and citizens deadlocks, the duties move to the conservative-leaning Virginia Supreme Court.
Map drawing will commence in 2021, when the state is set to receive the results of the census. Because of delays caused by the pandemic, census results needed for reapportionment may be delayed, forcing the state to grapple with incomplete maps ahead of the 2021 elections, in which all 100 House of Delegate seats are up for grabs.