Redistricting in Virginia
- 1 Process
- 2 Leadership
- 3 Census results
- 4 Congressional maps
- 4.1 Rose Institute Report
- 4.2 Bipartisan commission drafts maps
- 4.3 Incumbents propose congressional maps
- 4.4 Legislature accelerates process
- 4.5 Black Caucus calls for greater representation
- 4.6 Possible congressional maps emerge
- 4.7 House approves congressional maps, adjourns
- 4.8 Legislators to break after legislative maps
- 4.9 Assembly to reconvene in June
- 4.10 Cantor declines to endorse redistricting plan
- 4.11 Chambers reconvene, pass competing plans
- 4.12 Committee still deadlocked
- 4.13 McDonnell urges action
- 4.14 Wittman calls for action
- 4.15 After election, GOP to delay until January
- 4.16 Democrats dispute GOP control
- 4.17 House approves maps
- 4.18 Senate approves, Governor signs
- 5 Legislative maps
- 5.1 New General Assembly districts added
- 5.2 Technology
- 5.3 Legislators reach tentative compromise
- 5.4 House and Senate adopt redistricting standards
- 5.5 Preliminary maps released
- 5.6 Hearings on preliminary maps
- 5.7 Legislature begins special session
- 5.8 House approves chamber plan
- 5.9 Senate approves state redistricting plan
- 5.10 McDonnell vetoes Virginia state redistricting plan
- 5.11 House passes revised maps
- 5.12 Senate compromise
- 5.13 McDonnell signs redistricting plan
- 5.14 Attorney General seeks pre-clearance
- 5.15 State redistricting could cost $5 million
- 5.16 Republicans shuffle districts to remain competitive
- 5.17 Department of Justice approves legislative plans
- 6 Citizen activism
- 7 Legal issues
- 8 Reform legislation
- 9 Timeline
- 10 History
- 11 Constitutional explanation
- 12 See also
- 13 External links
- 14 References
Joint Reapportionment Committee Membership
Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission
Governor Bob McDonnell announced on January 9, 2011, that an independent commission would oversee the process of redrawing Virginia's congressional and legislative boundaries. . The Governor issued an Executive Order creating the commission along with naming the 11 members that would oversee the process. The commission consists of judges, government officials, and former officeholders who have not held office for at least five years. Supporters of the bipartisan commission hope that the new panel will put pressure on the General Assembly to put aside political motivations when considering any redistricting plan.  
- Bob Holsworth, (Chairman) Managing Partner of DecideSmart and founder of the nonpartisan website, VirginiaTomorrow.com
- Gary Baise, Principal, Olsson Frank Weeda
- Viola Baskerville, Fmr. Member, Virginia House of Delegates; Fmr. Virginia Secretary of Administration
- Barry DuVal, President, Virginia Chamber of Commerce; Fmr. Mayor of Newport News; Fmr. Secretary of Commerce and Trade
- Jim Dyke, Partner, McGuireWoods; Fmr. Secretary of Education; Fmr. Chair, Greater Washington Board of Trade
- Jean Jensen, Former Secretary, State Board of Elections; Former Executive Director, Democratic Party of Virginia
- Sam Johnston, Fmr. Judge, 24th Judicial Circuit
- Walt Kelley, Fmr. Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia
- Sean O'Brien, Executive Director, Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montepelier
- Cameron Quinn, Fmr. Secretary, State Board of Elections
- Ashley Taylor, Partner, Troutman Sanders; Fmr. Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
- March 11th: Capitol Building
- March 14th: Virginia Western Community College
- March 15th: George Mason University
- March 21st: Norfolk State University
Virginia remained at 11 congressional districts for the 2010 Census despite adding more than a million citizens to the population in the last year.  The ideal congressional district size going into the new census is 730,703 constituents. 
The U.S. Census Bureau delivered local population data to the Commonwealth of Virginia on February 3, 2011.  The five most populous cities in Virginia were Virginia Beach at 437,994, Norfolk at 242,803, Chesapeake at 222,209, Richmond at 204,214, and Newport News at 180,719.  Since the 2000 Census, Virginia Beach grew by 3 percent, Norfolk grew by 3.6 percent, Chesapeake grew by 11.6 percent, Richmond grew by 3.2 percent, and Newport News grew by 0.3 percent.  The Virginia Farm Bureau has expressed worries that shifts toward urban areas will decrease funding and representation for rural areas.
The General Assembly will use this local census data during a special session on redistricting in April of 2011. The session is expected to be politically charged when a split-controlled Legislature battles over incumbency and drawing new maps that reflect shifting population from Southern to Northern Virginia in the past decade. Due to growth in Hispanic and Asian communities, Northern Virgina grew almost twice and fast as the rest of the state. Fairfax County is now home to more than 1 million residents. Asian Americans, who have seen 68% growth since the last census, are already seeking increased representation through the redistricting process.
In late February, The Census Bureau announced adjusted population counts for Virginia. An error had placed 19,279 sailors stationed at the Norfolk Naval Station in West Ghent, a neighborhood of Norfolk. According to the erroneous figures, the area enjoyed an 8,300% increase in population and each home in West Ghent contained over 200 people. The error, noticed earlier in the month, did not affect Norfolk's overall population. However, the mistake could have significantly effected state-level redistricting since the Norfolk Naval Station and West Ghent reside in different state legislative districts.
Rose Institute Report
The Rose Institute of State and Local Government has issued a detailed report on how legislative districts may be redrawn in Virginia. The report contends that increasing population in Northern Virginia may threaten seats currently held by Republicans. The report concludes that Districts 1, 4, 6, 7, and 9 will remain strongly Republican and Districts 3 and 8 will remain Democratic. Districts 10 and 11 will likely remain Republican and Democratic, respectively, since gerrymandering District 11 could result in weaker Republican control of District 10. Districts 2 and 5, predicts the report, will be the most contentious because of their reputation as swing districts.
One possible congressional redistricting scenario mentioned by the report is that the GOP could redraw the 5th Congressional district to their benefit by not including Albemarle County.  Albemarle County is the home of former Congressman Tom Perriello.  The report said that it could be harder for Perriello to run again if his home county is no longer included in the 5th Congressional district.  
Bipartisan commission drafts maps
Early maps drafted by the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting could have serious implications for several Virginia incumbents. One of the maps would displace three Republican Congressmen by drawing their homes out of their respective districts. Another of the commission's maps would displace these three as well as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R). Since the commission is advisory, any plans would have to be approved by the Virginia Legislature and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
Incumbents propose congressional maps
Media reports suggest that Virgina's congressional delegation is unanimously backing a redistricting plan which would preserve the 8-3 GOP majority by redrawing districts in favor of House incumbents. The plan gained support from the minority members of the delegation by preserving their current districts, districts which the GOP could have attempted to weaken. The reported plan, which cannot pass without the approval of the legislature and Governor, has been sharply criticized the Virginia League of Women Voters. The president of the organization, Olga Hernandez, has called the plan "partisan gerrymandering at its worst." The plan has also drawn fire from the Virginia Redistricting Coalition whose member groups include AARP Virginia, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Legislature accelerates process
Virginia lawmakers may approve new legislative map more quickly than first expected. The senate may introduce its plan on March 29, with the house and senate redistricting committees holding public hears on March 31 and April 2. The special session to consider redistricting will begin on April 4. Some have speculated that the present schedule suggests that lawmakers intend to adopt redistricting plan on April 6 as they consider amendments and vetoes from Governor McDonnell. However, this timeline would allow legislators only days to consider the formal findings and redistricting proposals of the independent bi-partisan commission, expected April 1. The governor's office has argued that this is consistent with group's role as a source of objective data for lawmakers rather than source of political opinion.
Black Caucus calls for greater representation
Virginia's Legislative Black Caucus is calling for a second minority majority district in Virginia. Currently only one member of the state's 11-member congressional delegation is black, although African-Americans currently make up about 20% of Virginia's population. However, Michael McDonald, a George Mason University redistricting expert, has argued that a second minority district could not be drawn with more than a 40% black population.
Possible congressional maps emerge
Possible congressional redistricting plans have emerged in the Virginia State Legislature. The first plan, submitted by Bill Janis (R), is very similar to the incumbent-friendly maps supported by the congressional delegation which preserve the 8-3 Republican advantage. The plans were supported by the Democratic delegates since they virtually guarantee their re-election. However, Senate Democrats have since released their own congressional proposal, representing a significant break with the congressional delegation. The senate and house maps differ chiefly on their plan for the state's mandatory majority-minority district. The Republican plan attempts to boost minority clout in the existing majority-minority district, increasing the percentage of black voters from 53% to 56% in the 3rd District. The Democratic plan reduces the percentage of blacks in District 3 from 53% to 42%, while increasing the percentage in Republican-controlled District 4 from 33% to 51%.
House approves congressional maps, adjourns
On April 12, the Virginia House of Delegates passed the GOP's incumbent-friendly maps by a 71-23 margin. (Republicans hold a 59-39 advantage in the house.) The new map has garnered the support of the state's congressional delegation, including both its Republican and Democratic members. Senate Democrats, however, passed an amended version out of committee which attempts to create a second, minority-heavy district. Under the plan, Republican-controlled District 4 would become a minority-majority district, and District 3, the current minority-majority district, would become a minority-influence district. Before the Senate took a final vote, legislators agreed to break from the process and return prior to the end of the month.
Legislators to break after legislative maps
Assembly to reconvene in June
The General Assembly will reconvene on June 9 to finish Congressional redistricting. The House has already passed a Congressional plan endorsed by all 11 incumbent Congressmen. It now moves to the Senate which may approve, amend, or reject the bill. In addition, the Senate has drafted a competing congressional plan which seeks to create an additional minority-heavy district. Under the Senate plan, Republican-controlled District 4 would become a minority-majority district, and District 3, the current minority-majority district, would become a minority-influence district. Democrats have reiterated their commitment to plan, promising to fight for the senate-drawn maps. Legislative leaders have stated that they intend to appoint six lawmakers to work on a compromise.
Cantor declines to endorse redistricting plan
US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) has declined to publicly endorse the proposed Congressional plan or comment on the state's redistricting process. However, the sponsor of the House plan, Bill Janis (R), contends that his proposal was drawn with input from the entire Congressional delegation.
Chambers reconvene, pass competing plans
On June 9, the Virginia State Senate and Virginia House of Delegates approved competing redistricting plans. The chief area of disagreement continues to be the creation of minority-majority districts. The Democrat-drawn Senate plan would create one 51% majority minority district and transform the state's existing majority-minority district into a 42% minority influence district. The Republican-drawn house plan would preserve the current majority-minority district with a 56% African American majority. The City of Roanoke has also been a point of contention, with lawmakers fighting over whether to place it in 6th or 9th Congressional District. A conference committee has been formed to negotiate a compromise plan.
Conference committee membership
Members of the conference committee on Congressional redistricting include:
Committee still deadlocked
In mid-July, the sponsor of the Republican-drawn Congressional plan, Delegate Bill Janis (R), stated that the bipartisan committee is still strongly divided over Virginia's Congressional redistricting plan. The chief area of disagreement remains the creation of minority districts in the Southeast. Janis also suggested that the legislature may simply allow the process to pass to a federal judge.
McDonnell urges action
After six weeks since the appointment of the conference committee and over six months in session, the Virginia General Assembly has yet to reach final decisions on Congressional redistricting and judicial appointments. In a letter dated July 21, Governor McDonnell urged lawmakers to take swift action to finish business and adjourn. McDonnell noted the deleterious effect of the delays on the court system, and asked the General Assembly to either elect judges or adjourn so that McDonnell can appoint replacements. He also noted that there were no meetings scheduled and no plan set forth for completing Congressional redistricting. Asked about the delays, House leadership blamed the Senate for refusing to discuss the plan. When Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw was asked, he replied, "We’re back when we’re back. That’s all we can say." As of August 2, the conference committee had not yet met in full.
- The full letter can be found here.
Wittman calls for action
On August 25, US Rep. Robert Wittman (R-1) urged lawmakers to complete the redistricting process and set official lines for his and other districts. The Republican-controlled State House and Demcrat-controlled State Senate are still deadlocked over Congressional redistricting maps.
After election, GOP to delay until January
Although the legislature did complete state legislative districts, a new Congressional map was not completed during the 2011 session. As with Mississippi, the legislature was split -- Democrats controlled the Virginia State Senate and Republicans were the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans captured the Virginia Senate in the state’s general election. Although they only tied the chamber at 20-20, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R) will cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. The GOP is now expected to delay redistricting until the new senators take office in January. This will allow them them to break the long deadlock over congressional redistricting and pass their preferred maps. This plan is expected to preserved the Republicans’ 8-3 advantage in the Virginia congressional delegation.
Democrats dispute GOP control
With Virginia Republicans looking to begin congressional redistricting early next year, Democrats are asking the courts to clarify the legislative implications of Republican Senate gains. Republicans contend that, since Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) casts the tie breaking vote, the newly-tied Senate is effectively in Republican hands. Democrats contest this characterization, arguing that the tie-breaking power does not extend to organizational decisions, budget votes, and judgeships. If the Democratic position is vindicated, it could result in power sharing agreements on legislative committees and leadership positions--moves that could weaken GOP influence on redistricting.
House approves maps
On January 13, the Virginia House redistricting committee revived and approved last year's failed congressional redistricting bill. The House of Delegates approved the plan by a 74-21 vote, and the Senate is expected to consider the bill in the week that follows. Passage of the plan stalled last year after lawmakers in each chamber failed to agree on the number of minority-majority districts.
- An interactive version of the plan can be found here.
Senate approves, Governor signs
On Tuesday, January 25, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed the state's new congressional redistricting plan. The plan passed the Senate 20-19 and passed the House 74-21. The plan is the same as the plan rejected in 2011 by the then-Democratic State Senate. Democrats rejected the plan, in part, because it did not create a second majority-minority district.
DOJ approves plan
New General Assembly districts added
In the General Assembly, new State Senate and State House districts will be dramatically redrawn in Northern Virginia. Although the number of state senate districts will remain at 40, large population growth in the Northeastern counties means that the state will need to add new several house districts. It has not been undetermined where the new districts will be added, but this will affect how the other Senate and House districts will be drawn. When the new lines are drawn, the ideal size for a Senate district will be 200,000 while House districts will be 88,900.
Localities in the Fredricksburg region will be seeing improvements in technology compared to the last redistricting in 2001. New software, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), along with Census data will make redrawing voting districts a less tedious exercise. Stafford County has held demonstrations showing how district boundaries can be quickly redrawn with a computer. In 1991, it could take hours or days to calculate the ramifications of just one boundary change,
Legislators reach tentative compromise
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) has publicly announced a compromise with House GOP Leadership. Although the agreement is not binding, Saslaw explained that each chamber will draw their own lines and respect the lines drawn by the other. Any maps produced will still require the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
House and Senate adopt redistricting standards
In the previous round of state redistricting, lawmakers mandated that state districts could not deviate from their ideal size by more than 2%. However, as the legislature sets out its 2010 guidelines, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates has passed a stricter 1% standard for 2010 census redistricting. In the Senate, the Democrat's 2% standard was adopted over the GOP's proposal of .5%. Republicans argue that even a 2% variation in Senate districts could lead to disparities of up to 8,000 residents. While stricter standards would more evenly distribute representation, some fear that it will tie the hands of legislators as they draw state maps, giving them less leeway to protect communities of interest and keep counties and cities intact.
Preliminary maps released
On March 29, both chambers released preliminary redistricting maps. The maps, drawn by their respective chambers, reflect the interests of the majority parties. In the senate, Democrats drew maps which consolidated two Republican districts in Virginia Beach and favored Democratic incumbents on the Peninsula. In the House of Delegates, Republicans eliminated a Democratic district in Norfolk and diluted local Democratic districts while strengthening Republican districts on the Peninsula. Notably the plan moves democratic districts into Northern Virginia and displaces several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D). Both maps have been sharply criticized by minority leadership. 
Hearings on preliminary maps
Additionally, members of the Privileges and Elections Committees will hold several public hearings on the new redistricting plans. The hearing schedule can be found here. Residents speaking at the Roanoke and Hampton hearings expressed outrage and confusion at the maps, especially those produced by the senate, arguing that the maps split precincts, fracture communities of interest, and dilute the votes of political opponents. In a comic display of opposition, critics of the state's partisan process brought a giant stuffed serpent to the final public hearing, symbolizing the sinuous shape of gerrymandered districts.
Legislature begins special session
House approves chamber plan
The Virginia House of Delegates approved a redistricting plan on April 6, 2011 which sets new boundaries for the chamber's 100 seats. The plan was approved by an 86-8 vote, with all 8 nays coming from Democrats. Under the new maps, Minority Leader Ward Armstrong will be paired with incumbent Republican Donald Merricks. Several other Democrats,including Joe Johnson and Bud Phillips, who will be hurt by the plan either voted against the measure or did not vote.
All the plan's districts remained within their target of 1% with an average deviation of only .65% or 517 residents. Of the 100 newly drawn districts, 73 lean Republican based on data from the 2009 Gubernatorial election. The house plan will proceed to the Democratically-controlled State Senate for concurrence/amendment and will ultimately require the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
Some observers predict that opponents will challenge the plan on racial grounds since the number of majority-minority districts did not grow. However, none of the House's minority members voted against the maps.
Senate approves state redistricting plan
The Virginia State Senate approved a redistricting plan on April 7, 2011 which sets new boundaries for the state's 40 senate districts. The senate merged has their plan and the house plan as House Bill 5001.
The senate-approved maps successfully met their variance requirement of 2% or less, with districts averaging a 1.13% (or 2,270-resident) variance. Although the house plan enjoyed bi-partisan support, passing 86-8, the senate plan was approved by a 22-18 margin along partisan lines. Democrats control the Senate by a 22-18 margin. Overall, the senate plan has been more controversial. Republican critics cite a number of divided communities and contorted districts as significant faults. However, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) called the maps "even-handed" and argued that the criticisms were unwarranted.
Racial issues have also played into the controversy. Republicans argue that the senate maps dilute minorities votes and should have created more majority-minority districts in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. However, Democrats charge that Republicans are misinterpreting the act and are attempting to concentrate and isolate minority voters.
In either case, the combined plan now moves to the house for concurrence where it will be considered on April 11. Any plan passed will ultimately require the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). McDonnell, who has been urged by redistricting activists to veto or amend the bill, must act on the proposal by April 19.
McDonnell vetoes Virginia state redistricting plan
Along with the veto, McDonnell included a letter to state lawmakers detailing his reservations about the proposed maps. Most of the Governor's criticism was leveled at the plan authored by and for the State Senate. McDonnell expounded on this criticism, outlining three key criticisms of the senate plan. First, he argues that the plan represents an unacceptable increase in the number of divided communities. While the house plan involves only a 4 percent increase in divided communities according to McDonnell, the senate plan involves an increase of 25 percent. Second, he questions the 2 percent population deviation limit adopted by the State Senate (the State House adopted a 1 percent standard). Although he acknowledges that higher standards have been adopted in the past, McDonnell argues that the present deviations serve no "recognized principle of redistricting." Finally, the Governor argues that senate plan represents "partisan gerrymandering." He contends that the bi-partisan support received by the house plan signals a fairer approach to redistricting while the strict party line vote in the senate reveals the plan's partisan bent.
Saslaw said that he and other senate Democrats will pass the same plan again and will refuse to pass any additional plan. However, on April 22, Saslaw announced that senate Democrats were working with Governor McDonnell to "meet all of his concerns." If a compromise cannot be reached, the process would likely end with court intervention. Advocates of non-partisan redistricting have offered qualified support of the veto, arguing that while the plan deserved a veto, the Governor failed to address problems present in the house plan.
Although lawmakers plan to return on April 25, some lawmakers returned April 18 and passed a modified bill out of committee in the house. With primary elections scheduled for August 23, 2011 and a mandatory Department of Justice review, Virginia legislators are on a short timeline to amend the maps and complete the process. Otherwise, the 2011 elections may take on a whole different appearance to voters.
House passes revised maps
The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a revised version of its house redistricting plan. The plan reunites several divided precincts in the state's Southeast, but is largely the same as its original plan. The Senate, whose plan was more controversial, must still consider redistricting revisions.
A compromise was reached on Thursday, April 27, as the Virginia State Senate voted 32-5 to send a revised map to the Governor. The House concurred by a 63-7 vote. McDonnell has indicated he will sign the legislation as soon as possible.
Only weeks after State Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D) said not even one comma would be changed on the maps, several concessions were made to meet the governor's demands. "Each side wanted more than they got, but we were able to reach an agreement and produce a map that meets state and federal requirements including special attention to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act," Saslaw said. Both Democrats and Republicans indicated that they had to give up a little bit in the compromise map. Among the changes:
- Virginia Beach has two districts instead of one.
- Prince William County is split into one fewer district
- The College of William & Mary is split from the district of House Minority Leader Thomas Norment. Norment also works at the university.
McDonnell signs redistricting plan
On April 29, 2011, Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell (R) signed a revised legislative redistricting plan. Following the Governor's initial veto, the House quickly passed a revised version of their chamber's maps, reuniting a handful of divided precincts. In the State Senate, Democrats initially expressed strong opposition to changes, defending the fairness of the plan. However, Democrats and Republicans ultimately reached a compromise and passed a modified plan 32-5. While several modifications to plans were made, it appears that the key compromise centered on Virginia Beach. The original plan had consolidated two Republican seats in the region into one district. The new plan has preserved two distinct districts.
Governor McDonnell responded favorably to to the revised plans. In a statement released prior to his signature, McDonnell stated that the plan "retains more geographic and municipal boundaries, contains districts that are somewhat more compact, and passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote." McDonnell also said that the plan is a "great improvement" over the previous draft. The plan will now move to the Department of Justice for approval under the Voting Rights Act.
Figure 3: This map shows the Virginia House districts after 2001 redistricting.
Figure 4: This map shows the Virginia House districts after 2011 redistricting.
Figure 5: This map shows the Virginia State Senate districts after 2001 redistricting.
Figure 6: This map shows the Virginia State Senate districts after 2011 redistricting.
Attorney General seeks pre-clearance
On May 10, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sought pre-clearance for the state's legislative redistricting plan before the US District Court for the District of Columbia. While the state has also submitted the plans to the Justice Department, the District Court is also permitted to clear the maps. This avenue may prove quicker for the state as it faces looming elections in the new districts.
DOJ to interview lawmakers
As the Department of Justice continues its review of Virginia's legislative redistricting plans, it has requested interviews with several lawmakers active in the redistricting process. Members of both the House and Senate have called the request routine.
State redistricting could cost $5 million
Estimates by the State Board of Elections suggest that Virginia redistricting could cost $5 million. A great deal of this cost arises from the splitting of precincts. Each split precinct must purchase new voting machines, signs, and guides -- expenses which could total $25,000 per precinct. Since much of this cost will fall to local governments, critics call the redistricting plans an "unfunded mandate." Local estimates suggest that redistricting could cost Fairfax and Prince Williams Counties $750,000 and $246,000, respectively.
Republicans shuffle districts to remain competitive
At least two incumbent Senate Republicans paired as a result of state legislative redistricting are moving to avoid primary contests. While the Democratically-controlled State Senate drew maps intended to favor Democrats, the recently relocated Republicans may remain competitive. As a result of the moves, Bill Stanley (R) will challenge incumbent Roscoe Reynolds (D) in a contentious race that could draw millions in campaign contributions.
Virginia Republican Party chairman Pat Mullins expressed confidence in the upcoming senate contests, stating, "We are very well positioned to take back the Senate...Both of the new open seats trend heavily toward our party, and despite the Democrats' best efforts, there are a number of seats where liberal incumbents are in serious trouble." Senator Donald McEachin (D) acknowledged, "I think we were generous with people we should not have been generous with."
Department of Justice approves legislative plans
On Friday, June 17, the US Department of Justice approved Virginia's legislative redistricting plan. The approval process took only 37 of the 60 days allotted by the Voting Rights Act. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) praised the department's speedy response.
State legislative maps draw criticism
A number of analysts and redistricting activists have come out in opposition to the state redistricting plan passed by the Virginia State Legislature. Douglas Smith, of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, argued that the maps, "make legislative districts less compact, split more counties and cities and separate common-sense communities of interest even more than the maps currently in place." This view was corroborated by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. The center's report on the new maps found that the state's plan exacerbates current partisan gerrymandering, fractures communities of interest, and contorts legislative districts.
In addition to these criticisms, Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart and local NAACP chapter President Ralph Smith held a joint press conference to attack the State Senate's plan. Prince William County in Northern Virginia has about 400,000 residents or just enough for 2 state senators. However, under the current state plan, the county is home to parts of six distinct districts. Smith and Stewart charge that this redistricting plan dilutes Prince William's influence in the Capitol and dilutes the clout of minority voters. However, Senate Democrats rejected these allegations, arguing that the maps preserve minority voting power by preserving existing majority-minority districts and creating three new ones in Northern Virginia. In addition, they argue that having a vote in six different districts actually amplifies the county's influence.
State seeks public input
After the 2010 Census results were compiled, the General Assembly's Joint Reapportionment Committee chose to share the process on the Internet and allow Virginia voters to leave comments. Virginians will get to comment on how their district lines are drawn through a Web site that allows them to check out the new district maps and voice any concerns. "We’ll certainly consider any input anyone provides us," said Del. Mark Cole, R- Fredericksburg.
The Joint Reapportionment Committee met in Richmond to rough out the details of setting up a system to handle 2011 redistricting, when local, state and congressional district lines will be redrawn to reflect the results of the 2010 Census.
The changes will likely be seen in the northern Virginia area and the southwest part of Virginia. The public will likely have the first chance to comment on redistricting as a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor begins its work. The Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting is tasked with proposing new district lines for state House, Senate and congressional seats. The independent commission held its first meeting in late January 2011 and hopes to present its recommended district maps to the General Assembly by April 1, 2011. Lawmakers are expected to reconvene in a special session to tackle redistricting beginning April 6.
Voter rights group slams the process
Even after Governor McDonnell formed a bi-partisan commission to oversee the redistricting process, many groups are still calling for reform.  The Virginia Chapter of the League of Women Voters is pressuring lawmakers to move the responsibility of redistricting from legislators to a non-partisan commission. The voter advocacy group has slammed the use of gerrymandering across the nation where the Legislatures draws the lines. Olga Hernandez, President of the Virginia League of Women Voters, said during a forum: "we just think there should be a fairer way of representing people and the interests of the community." 
Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D), however, has argued that redistricting does not require an independent commission. He contends, "I voted for that redistricting commission, but the reality is, the U.S. Supreme Court has said redistricting is a political act... I don't know for the life of me why we need to have a nonpartisan commission draw it. Saslaw also cited Democratic victories in 2001 as evidence that then Republican-drawn maps did not prevent Democratic gains.
Several colleges have competed in a contest to redraw Virginia's congressional, State House, and State Senate districts. The top entries in each category were awarded a monetary prize and submitted for consideration to the independent commission. 13 colleges submitted 68 maps to the redistricting competition.  On March 22, the contest winners were announced. A list of the winners by category and the winning maps can be found here.
Cuccinelli prepared for legal stalemate
With Virginia needing pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to enact its redistricting plan, this could keep Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli busy. The Attorney General has told the Virginia media that his office is dedicating most of its time in 2011 to handle any legal fallout that comes from redistricting. Despite lawmakers and the Governor may reach an agreement on a plan, the Commonwealth's top law enforcement official is prepared to handle any lawsuits. Cuccinelli said that: "there is no other state in the country that is covered by the Voting Rights Act that has elections in 2011. We're the only one, we're everyone else's test case."  Cuccinelli has been on the record saying that he favors the Commonwealth's being exempted from the pre-clearance process.
Lawsuits seek court intervention
On November 16, a group of Virginia residents filed suit asking the U.S. District Court in Alexandria to draw the state’s new congressional districts. Although lawmakers have pledged to pass maps as early as possible in the 2012 session, the plaintiffs argue that the Virginia Constitution requires the maps to be completed by the end of this year. In addition, they note that the 60-day Department of Justice approval process will further exacerbate the delay. Since Republicans took control of the State Senate during the November elections, waiting until the next session would given them a decided advantage in redistricting. The attorney for the plaintiffs has worked for Democrats in the past but maintains that this case is independent of the state Democratic Party and Senate Democrats. A similar case has also been filed in state court.
On February 10, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit that was asking the court to invalidate Virginia's congressional map and draw a new one. The lawsuit was based on the failure of the legislature to pass the plan by 2011--the year indicated for the task by the Virginia Constitution. The court did not elaborate on its decision. A similar case is still pending in state court.
Cuccinelli seeks high court intervention
A lawsuit is pending against the plan in state district court. The plan challenges the authority of the legislature to pass a redistricting plan after 2011 -- the state constitutional deadline. On January 25, the district court allowed the case to move forward. Given the details of the case, the decision effectively grants the plaintiff's central argument. However, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to settle the matter. The maps must still face the 60-day DOJ approval process before taking effect. The signature filing deadline for congressional candidates is March 29 for those seeking election in 2012.
Supreme Court refuses to intervene
On January 31, the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging the Virginia General Assembly's authority to pass a redistricting plan after 2011 -- the state constitutional deadline. On January 25, a district court had allowed the case to move forward. Given the details of the case, the decision effectively grants the plaintiff's central argument. However, the Supreme Court found that the district court's decision was not final enough to warrant review.
The maps must still face the 60-day pre-approval process before taking effect. VA has already submitted their plan to the Department of Justice and DC District Court -- seeking approval under both of the VRA's prescribed channels. To accommodate this process, VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) has asked the General Assembly to move the state's congressional primary from June to August.
Circuit Court dismisses challenge
On February 28, a Virginia circuit court judge dismissed the state challenge pending against the state's congressional districts. On January 25, the district court allowed the case to move forward. Following that decision, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) had asked the Virginia Supreme Court to intervene and settle the matter, but the High Court declined. Nevertheless, the state's defense was ultimately vindicated. Judge Richard D. Taylor concluded that although the Virginia Constitution instructs lawmakers to complete redistricting in 2011, it does not forbid the completion of maps in 2012. A similar federal challenge was dismissed on February 10.
SB932 (Non-partisan commission) defeated
Senate Bill 932, sponsored by John Miller (D), was defeated by a subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The bill, killed on February 15, would have a created a non-partisan commission to re-draw state districts. The bill had previously passed the senate 40-0.
HB 13, excluding prison populations
Virginia law allows municipalities to exclude inmates from local redistricting calculations when inmate populations exceed 12% of the population. Federal and regional prison facilities, however, may not be excluded. Counties say this gives some local districts disproportionate political clout. In an attempt to address these concerns, Del. Riley Ingram (R) has introduced HB 13 which would allow counties to exclude federal and regional prison population above 12%. Under the law, twice as many counties would be eligible to exclude prisoners.
The redistricting timeline for Virginia as follows. Some deadlines are approximate as Virginia is one of a few states that must have pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before any plan is enacted, which is enforced under the Voting Rights Act:
|Virginia 2010 Redistricting Timeline|
|December 21, 2010||State informed of number of Congressional Seats on the 2010 Census.|
|March 1, 2011||Expected date to receive complete Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.|
|April 1, 2011||Final deadline to receive Census data.|
|April-June 2011.||General Assembly meets to have Legislative redistricting plan in place.|
|August 23, 2011||Statewide and Local Primary Election.|
|July-October 2011||General Assembly meets to have Congressional redistricting plan in place.|
|November 8, 2011 .||General election.|
|June 12, 2012||First primary elections in newly created districts.|
|November 6, 2012||First general election in newly created legislative and congressional boundaries.|
2011 primary date changed
Politics and the redistricting timeline
Unlike most states in the nation, Virginia did not hold state legislative election in 2010. For this reason, Virginia Republicans were unable to achieve the gains seen in the 85.2 % of the chambers that held elections on November 2. Given the GOP's presumed political momentum going into Virginia's 2011 election cycle, some have speculated the GOP may seek to delay the redistricting process until they can reap 2011 election gains, specifically taking control of the Virginia State Senate. While it seems unlikely that the GOP could delay state-level redistricting beyond 2011, delaying congressional redistricting seem much more feasible.
House votes to delay primary
The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill conditionally delaying the state primary if the new congressional redistricting plan is not pre-approved by the DOJ by April 3. The primary would move from June 12 to August 7.
Deviation from "Ideal Districts"
|2000 Population Deviation|
|State House Districts||3.90%|
|State Senate Districts||4.00%|
|Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.|
- State Legislative and Congressional Redistricting after the 2010 Census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
- Official Virginia Redistricting Government Home Page
- Official Virginia Redistricting Information
- Virginia House of Delegates Redistricting Fact Sheet
- Virginia Senate Redistricting Fact Sheet
- Virginia Division of Legislative Services, "Guide to Local Redistricting for 2011"
- Richmond Times-Dispatch "McDonnell names redistricting panel" 11 Jan. 2011
- Examiner.com, "Redistricting commission to collect public comments before redistricting," March 6, 2011
- Commonwealth of Virginia Press Release, "Governor Establishes Independent Bipartisan Redistricting Commission," January 10, 2011
- Richmond Times Dispatchm, "Work of state redistricting panel gets under way" March 9, 2011
- Virginian Pilot "Va., N.C. populations grow, but no political power gained", December 22, 2010
- Fairfax Times "Virginia's population has grown by almost 1 million since 2000" 21 Dec. 2010
- US Census Bureau "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Virginia's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting" 3 Feb. 2011
- Washington Post, "Farm Bureau frets about population shifts and redistricting’s impact on rural Virginia," May 16, 2011
- Washington Examiner "Redistricting battle looms for Virginia" 1 Feb. 2011
- Washington Examiner, "NOVA's population booms as redistricting looms," February 9, 2010
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Asian-Americans discuss redistricting," February 12, 2011
- Pilot Online, "Census error inflates count of Norfolk neighborhood," February 9, 2011
- Pilot Online, "Census Bureau admits goof in Norfolk population figures," February 24, 2011
- Rose Institute of State and Local Government, "Virginia Redistricting: Protecting Incumbents Again? (The Complete Series)," February 2, 2011
- News Advance "Fifth, Sixth districts face redistricting efforts" 29 Jan. 2011
- The Rose Report "Virginia Redistricting: Strengthening Republican Districts in the Southwest" 27 Jan. 2011
- Politico, "Va. House delegation protects itself," March 14, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Virginia coalition attacks redistricting proposal," March 17, 2011
- Washington Post, "Va. General Assembly looks for quick redistricting," March 18, 2011
- The Daily Progress, "Caucus calls for second black-majority district," March 22, 2011
- US Census Bureau, "2010 Census Data"
- HamptonRoads.com, "Race and redistricting," March 25, 2011
- The Washington Post, "New Virginia congressional redistricting proposal filed for consideration," April 7, 2011
- The Washington Examiner, "Va. Dems' plan creates new minority district," April 11, 2011
- PilotOnline.com, "Va. lawmakers take a break from redistricting," April 13, 2011
- progress-index.com, "U.S. Rep. Forbes hanging on the edge of his seat," May 15, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Next up is congressional redistricting, but not soon," May 1, 2011
- The Virginian Pilot, "Va. lawmakers to resume redistricting work June 9," May 14, 2011
- progress-index.com, "U.S. Rep. Forbes hanging on the edge of his seat," May 15, 2011
- Washington Post, "June session will find some Va. Democrats ready to fight for 2nd minority US House district," May 25, 2010
- Washington Post Local, "House, Senate still far apart on congressional redistricting," May 31, 2011
- Washington Post, "Cantor does not plan to get involved in redistricting," May 18, 2011
- The Washington Times, "State House, Senate OK rival maps on redistricting," June 9, 2011
- The Roanoke Times, "Roanoke is once again in contention as lawmakers resume redistricting," June 8, 2011
- Delmarva Now, "Va. House, Senate continue standoff over redistricting map," July 13, 2011
- Washington Post, "Impatient McDonnell tells legislative leaders to finish redistricting, appoint judges, go home," July 21, 2011
- "Assembly Continues Redistricting Stalemate," August 2, 2011
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "Wittman urges GA to reach redistricting deal," August 26, 2011
- PilotOnline.com, "GOP expected to press advantage in redistricting," November 10, 2011
- Washington Post, "Republicans will postpone congressional redistricting until January," November 9, 2011
- News and Advance, "Republicans say they won't share power in Senate," November 9, 2011
- Washington Post, "Virginia Democrats look to courts to stop GOP Senate takeover," November 21, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "House passes GOP redistricting plan," January 13, 2012
- Washington Post, "Bob McDonnell signs Va. congressional redistricting bill into law," January 25, 2012
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "Redistricting: Justice approves," March 28, 2012
- Mount Vernon Patch "Shedding Light on Virginia's Redistricting Process" 4 Jan. 2011
- Fredricksburg.com "Technology will ease once-tedious redistricting task" 23 Jan. 2011
- Daily Press, "Redistricting begins in earnest," March 9, 2011
- The Washington Post, "House proposes change to redistricting criteria from 2001," March 24, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "State senators argue about redistricting," March 26, 2011
- Washington Post Local, "House, Senate adopt different criteria for redistricting," March 25, 2011
- Fredericksburg.com, "State redistricting maps have critics," 3/31/2011
- Daily Press, "Virginia redistricting fight begins; Senate and House release proposals," March 29, 2011
- Daily Press, "Redistricting panel meets as maps emerge," March 30, 2011
- The Roanoke Times, "Public decries Virginia redistricting plans at Roanoke meeting," April 01, 2011
- PilotOnline.com, "Redistricting plan lambasted at Hampton forum," April 1, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Snake-like districts don't charm advocates," April 5, 2011
- Washington Post, "Virginia General Assembly to convene legislative redistricting session," April 3, 2011
- Daily Reporter, "General Assembly opens redistricting lightning round advancing new House, Senate majority maps," April 4, 2010
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "House of Delegates advances redistricting plan," April 06, 2011
- House Plan: HB 5001 Redistricting Documents, Spreadsheet
- Washington Post, "Bolling: McDonnell should reject redistricting maps without bipartisan support," April 7, 2011
- MySanantonio.com, "House Dems build record to sue over GOP remap plan," April 5, 2011
- Authors calculations from Division of Legislative Services, HB 5001, "Population, Demographics, Election Data, Voting Age Population"
- Roanoke.com, "State Senate OKs redistricting plan," April 8, 2011
- TriCities.com, "Redistricting maps headed for showdown Monday," April 08, 2011
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "McDonnell urged to veto or amend proposed map," April 14, 2011
- Governors Office Press Release, "Governor McDonnell Acts on Redistricting Legislation," April 15, 2011
- Washington Post, "Senators, governor’s office negotiating on redistricting plan," April 22, 2011
- Washington Post, "Governor vetoes Virginia legislative redistricting bill, cites concerns about Senate plan," April 15, 2011
- Washington Post, "General Assembly postpones redistricting debate," April 18, 2011
- Washington Examiner, "Virginia House advances new redistricting plan," April 25, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch "General Assembly approves redistricting plan," April 29, 2011
- Washington Examiner "Va. lawmakers OK new redistricting plan," April 28, 2011
- Washington Times "State Senate passes 2nd redistricting proposal," April 28, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McDonnell signs redistricting bill," April 30, 2011
- Washington Examiner, "Virginia House advances new redistricting plan," April 25, 2011
- The News and Advance, "UPDATE: Va. Senate approves redistricting plan," April 28, 2011
- Governor's Office Press Release, "Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on Passage of Redistricting Legislation," April 28, 2011
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Va. seeks green light on redistricting plan," May 11, 2011
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "Justice Department seeks interviews with legislators over redistricting," May 25, 2011
- 'Richmond Times Dispatch, "Redistricting might cost Virginia $5 million," May 20, 2011
- WTOP, "The cost of voting in Virginia to go up," May 30, 2011
- Westport News, "After Dems' remap, Va. GOP won't go away quietly," May 29, 2011
- Daily Press, "Expect some spice in elections stew," May 26, 2011
- Washington Post, "Justice Department approves Virginia’s legislative maps," June 17, 2011
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "McDonnell urged to veto or amend proposed map," April 14, 2011
- Washington Post, "Report: New legislative districts would be worse than the old ones," April 13, 2011
- US Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Virginia's 2010 Census Population," February 3, 2011 (See: Custom tables)
- Ballotpedia, Population represented by state legislators
- Woodbridge Patch, "NAACP Joins County Chairman In Protest of Senate Redistricting Plan," April 13, 2011
- Washington Post, "Senate Democrats respond to Pr. William County’s and NAACP’s redistricting attack," April 13, 2011
- "Redistricting plans, comments go to the Web," Virginia Statehouse News, December 22, 2010
- "Bipartisan commission could take show to NOVA first," Virginia Statehouse News, January 31, 2011
- Virginia Business "Carving up Virginia’s map" 1 Jan. 2011
- ARL Now "League of Women Voters Fights for Redistricting Reform" 12 Jan. 2011
- Washington Examiner, "Redistricting commission won't affect Va. legislature," February 13, 2011
- The Virginia Gazette, "W&M students compete in redistricting state," February 28, 2011
- Inside NOVA, "13 schools map out ideas in redistricting competition," March 16, 2011
- NBC 29 "Cuccinelli Preps For Redistricting Response" 7 Jan. 2011
- Washington Examiner "Cuccinelli favors less redistricting oversight from DOJ" 7 Dec. 2010
- The Roanoke Times, "Lawsuit urges federal court to redraw districts," November 18, 2011
- Washington Post, "8 months later, Va. lawmakers still fighting over drawing one majority-black district, or two," December 4, 2011
- Washington Post, "Federal court dismisses Va. redistricting suit, state case still pending," February 11, 2011
- The Washington Times, "Cuccinelli asks Va. Supreme Court to intervene in redistricting suit," January 25, 2012
- WSLS, "Judge says Congressional redistricting lawsuit can move on," January 25, 2012
- Washington Times, "Va. Supreme Court denies Cuccinelli petition in redistricting case," January 31, 2012
- CBS DC, "Judge Dismisses Virginia Redistricting Suit," February 28, 2012
- PilotOnline.com, "Va. House panel kills nonpartisan redistricting plan," February 16, 2011
- News & Advance, "Proposal would exclude prisoners for redistricting," December 29, 2011
- Population Reference Bureau "2010 Census Deadlines
- Virginia House of Delegates "Redistricting Fact Sheet"
- Virginia State Board of Elections "5 Year Election Calendar
- VA Legislative Information Service, "HB 1507"
- Washingtonpost.com, "Could GOP grab control of redistricting in Virginia?," January 31, 2011
- Washington Post, "General Assembly passes bill that may delay 2012 primary date," March 8, 2012
- National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011