Virginia House Democrats propose redistricting plan

Published: Aug. 29, 2018 at 3:50 PM EDT
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Virginia House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled their proposed fix to the state's electoral map after a court ruled that 11 legislative districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Democratic House Minority Leader Del. David Toscano and other members of his caucus discussed the proposal at a press conference in Richmond, a day before lawmakers were to reconvene for a special session called by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Toscano said the remedial map will meet the requirements of a June federal court ruling, which found lawmakers had illegally packed black voters into certain Richmond and Hampton Roads-area districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.

"First and foremost, the map we are introducing is compact, contiguous, and respects communities of interest," he said in a statement. "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."

The court ruling, which GOP lawmakers are appealing, could eventually affect partisan control of the House. Republicans currently hold a narrow 51-49 majority after Democrats picked up 15 seats last year.

House elections are scheduled for 2019, but the judges ordered that the map be redrawn by Oct. 30.

GOP lawmakers have asked the court to stay its deadline pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

Toscano said his party's proposal should be immediately referred to a committee for consideration when lawmakers convene Thursday and suggested Republicans are trying to drag out the process. The court's decision came down June 26 and there has since been "no action," he said.

"Now we're here the day before a special session. We've seen no map. We've seen nothing from the Republicans. It's delay, delay, delay to avoid having new districts by 2019," he said.

Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for GOP House Speaker Kirk Cox, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Republicans, who control House procedures, have said in a court filing that redistricting is a "political process," and it "remains unknown how the process will unfold."

Additional plans may be proposed and "other efforts" such as the holding of hearings and gathering of public input may be necessary, the filing said.

If lawmakers can't reach a consensus, the court would likely step in, as it did a few years ago when lawmakers were ordered to redraw congressional districts.

Neither the text of the bill nor proposed maps were immediately available Wednesday afternoon.