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Redistricting commission scraps regional approach, calls for legislative maps of entire state
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Redistricting commission scraps regional approach, calls for legislative maps of entire state

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Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton (from left), Greta Harris of Richmond and Mackenzie Babichenko of Hanover County attended a redistricting commission meeting last month. Harris and Babichenko are co-chairs of the commission.

Virginia’s new redistricting commission, concerned about a hastening deadline to produce maps of legislative districts, is scrapping its regional approach that had begun with proposed districts in Northern Virginia, and will press on to create statewide maps.

“As we have done throughout this process, we have spent some time assessing where we are and what is ahead, and with the guidance of our legal counsel, have determined the Commission will be shifting gears as we reach the halfway mark,” commission co-chairs Greta Harris and Mackenzie Babichenko said in a joint statement.

The commission is now directing mapmakers aligned with Democrats and those aligned with Republicans to produce separate proposed maps of all 100 House districts and all 40 Senate districts for the commission to review at its meeting on Sept. 20.

The new commission is “building the plane as we are flying it here,” Harris said at the beginning of Monday’s commission meeting.

The commission, made up of eight citizen members and eight legislators, has until Oct. 10 to draft and agree on proposed legislative maps of the House of Delegates and state Senate and until Oct. 25 to do so with proposed U.S. House districts. If the commission agrees on the maps the proposals will go to the legislature for consideration in up or down votes. The legislature may not amend maps the commission proposes.

On Sunday the panel’s separate legal counsel — aligned with Democrats and with Republicans — worked together to provide a written legal primer to the commission on the Voting Rights Act, spelling out areas of agreement and areas of disagreement.

On Monday the lawyers spent hours offering dueling guidance on when mapmakers may — when they should — use race as a primary consideration in creating legislative districts. The commission could not agree on whether the mapmakers should look for opportunities to create minority-opportunity districts or whether they merely may do so.

The panel next meets Wednesday, when the lawyers will again try to agree on proposed guidance for commissioners to provide the mapmakers.

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