In 2019, Virginia’s legislative districts will be changed as a federal court will now be responsible for providing a solution to the redistricting impasse between the two parties in the General Assembly. Since the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia invalidated 11 House districts in the Richmond and Hampton Roads metropolitan areas, the General Assembly was given until October 30 to come up with a remedial plan.
Weeks ago, Democrats forwarded a new map constructed by an unknown source, with a few Democratic delegates breaking with the party, calling it a “self-serving political power grab.” Republicans responded, with Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) announcing that his one-member majority forwarded a “politically-neutral, race-blind remedial map” to be voted on in an upcoming special session.
Following Governor Ralph Northam (D) declaring that he would veto the GOP plan – even though it had bipartisan support – Speaker Cox cancelled the special session. He said, “After weeks of feigning interest, the governor has admitted at last that he wants federal judges appointed by President Obama to draw a redistricting map to deliver a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates.”
The court has selected University of California-Irvine political science professor Bernard Grofman to draw the legislative map. Attorney General Mark Herring (D) advocated for the professor, calling him a “special master.”
Grofman is the same person who redrew Virginia’s congressional districts in 2016, wherein the formerly Republican-leaning Fourth Congressional District held by senior lawmaker Randy Forbes was altered into a heavily Democratic district that is currently represented by Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-4). Forbes ran for a ninth consecutive term in the neighboring Second Congressional District, but lost the nomination to the current representative, Scott Taylor.
In an earlier court filing, attorneys for House Republicans called the 2015 redistricting “a disservice to Virginia residents of all political stripes.”
“This deprived Virginia of a high-ranking member of Congress, who was in line to sit on the House Armed Services Committee, to represent the Norfolk region that relies heavily on federal military presence to support its local economy,” the House GOP’s lawyers wrote, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.