In November, Virginia voters overwhelming endorsed changing the way the state draws legislative and congressional boundaries. Now it’s time for citizens to step up and join the action.
This election, Virginians voted 2-1 in favor of amending the state Constitution to create a bipartisan commission that will be charged with redistricting. No longer will the decennial map drawing be decided by lawmakers in the back rooms of the state Capitol, out of public sight and away from citizen scrutiny.
The 16-member panel will consist of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, and be led by a citizen chair. Its deliberations will include public hearings held across the state and open meetings. This week, leaders of the General Assembly named its members— four from each party, four from each chamber.
Citizens can apply to join the Virginia Redistricting Commission through Dec. 28. They must be Virginia residents and registered voters, have voted in at least two of the past three general elections and not have held political office, among the criteria.
More details and how to apply are available at the redistricting portion of the Division of Legislative Services website: https://redistricting.dls.virginia.gov
Legislative leaders from both parties in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates will create short lists of citizen applicants who they want to serve on the commission, the RTD reported. 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 selection committee, according to the website, “is required to ensure that the makeup of the commission is representative of the racial, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity of the commonwealth.” The judges have until Jan. 15 to pick the citizen members, and the first meeting of the full commission must be held by Feb. 1.
Its work will begin in earnest once the state receives the results of the 2020 census and, wehope, be ready for the fall 2021 elections— when all 100 House seats will be on the ballot. Final approval rests with the assembly, though lawmakers can’t alter the maps. If there’s an impasse, the Supreme Court of Virginia will have the final say.
The new approach to redistricting holds promise for greater accountability. It can only be an improvement over past efforts, which lacked transparency, resulted in costly lawsuits and emboldened partisan gerrymandering. If you want to be part of the redistricting solution, here’s your chance: Apply to become a citizen member.