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Applications for Virginia’s redistricting commission open Monday

Richmond
Richmond (WSLS)

Applications will open Monday for citizens who want to serve on Virginia’s newly created bipartisan redistricting commission, a group that will redraw the state’s congressional and General Assembly districts to conform with the 2020 Census.

The 16-member panel, which was created after voters approved a constitutional amendment earlier this month, will include eight legislators and eight other citizens, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The eight citizens will be chosen by retired judges from a list prepared by legislators.

The judges met Wednesday to discuss and approve the detailed citizen applications, which include questions about an individual’s education, employment history, political party affiliation, age, household income, voting history, leadership experience and any “partisan activities or relevant employment history” of their relatives.

The judges also voted Wednesday to require that applicants submit three recommendations.

The applications will be made available on a state redistricting website, and applications will be accepted for four weeks. When that window closes, staff at the state Division of Legislative Services will evaluate the applications and provide legislative leaders with a pool of applications that are eligible and complete.

The legislative leaders will further whittle down the pool and then provide the judges with a list of candidates.

The judges are tasked with ensuring “the citizen commissioners are, as a whole, representative of the racial, ethnic, geographic, and gender diversity of the Commonwealth,” according to the legislation that created the commission.

The maps developed by the panel will be sent to the General Assembly for an up-or-down vote with no opportunity to amend them. If the maps are rejected, the Supreme Court of Virginia will draw them.

Redistricting reform has become a hot-button issue nationally. Reformers say the practice of gerrymandering has led to anti-competitive legislative districts that choose polarizing candidates incapable of working across party lines in Washington and in state capitals across the country.