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Racial representation, communities of interest are top priorities during latest redistricting hearing

The commission has until Oct. 10 to submit recommendations to the General Assembly

The clock is ticking for Virginia’s Redistricting Commission as it works to redraw election district maps.
The clock is ticking for Virginia’s Redistricting Commission as it works to redraw election district maps.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The clock is ticking for Virginia’s Redistricting Commission as it works to redraw election district maps.

The citizen-led committee held a virtual hearing Thursday for the west-central region.

“The purpose of this series of public hearings is to hear from you all, the citizens of the Commonwealth, about our proposed maps,” said Virginia Trost-Thornton, one member of the commission.

Those maps draft new Congressional districts to avoid gerrymandering.

Da’quan Love, executive director of the commonwealth’s NAACP state chapter, raised concerns that one map in particular does not give Black Virginians enough opportunity.

“We see that there are only three majority, Black Senate districts. This is a reduction from the existing five majority, Black Senate districts. All four of Virginia’s Black state Senators were elected from majority Black districts, and no Black Senator was elected from a non-majority Black district,” said Love.

Racial representation remains a leading obstacle, according to Nicholas Goedert, a Virginia Tech political science professor.

“Republican maps [are] tending to concentrate Black voters in a smaller number of districts, where they constitute a majority or a super majority of the vote in those districts; while Democrats want to spread Black voters across more districts, where they have more opportunities,” said Goedert.

Another topic during Thursday’s meeting was forming communities of interest.

Several speakers, including Blacksburg resident Peggy Layne, suggested the commission combine Blacksburg, Radford and Christiansburg.

“We do form a community of interest. Radford University, Virginia Tech, and the VT-Carilion School of Medicine and Biomedical Research Center are major economic drivers for the region. Montgomery County has little in common with Bath or Highland County, other than our natural beauty,” said Layne.

The bipartisan commission has until Oct. 10 to submit recommendations to the General Assembly.

Failure to reach an agreement would send the matter to Virginia’s Supreme Court.


About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.