The four legislative leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate picked 62 citizen finalists last Friday to be considered for eight available spots on Virginia’s new redistricting commission.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) were responsible for making lists of 16 citizens out of more than 1,200 applicants.
Republican leaders picked 28 nominees while the Democratic leaders chose 34 nominees to make the 62 finalists. Only 62 citizens are named because five people appear on both GOP lists and one is on the two Democrat lists, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
Of the Republican nominations, 20 are men compared to eight women, and most reported an income of either between 100,000 and 200,000 or earning more, according to VPAP.
Furthermore, 15 citizens from the Republican lists are between the ages of 50 and 79, VPAP found.
The majority of Republican finalists hail from Virginia’s more rural areas, such as Hiltons in the far southwest, which tend to have more conservative voters. Only six of Gilbert and Norment’s selections live in the state’s three urban hubs: the greater Richmond area, Hampton-Roads and Northern Virginia.
Conversely, on the Democratic lists, almost every nominee – 28 out of 34 – lives in those three urban regions, where voters heavily lean blue and have helped secure victories for Democrats in statewide races for over a decade.
In terms of the Filler-Corn and Lucas’s lists, 19 Democratic finalists are women and 15 are men, and many also have income between 100,000 and 200,000 or more. Also, 18 nominees are between the ages of 50-79, according to VPAP.
When comparing past political donations by citizens on each list, Republican finalists have donated significantly more money than Democrat finalists.
Fifteen out of 28 GOP nominees have made $994,649 in political donations, but $927,019 of that comes from just one man: Marvin Gilliam of Bristol. Nineteen Democrat nominees have donated a total of $81,966 with the largest contribution made by Michael Jaffe of Great Falls ($17,875), VPAP found.
On Wednesday, a selection committee of five retired circuit court judges will meet and choose two citizens from each of the leaders’ lists to complete the commission’s membership.
The redistricting commission, consisting of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, is tasked with the constitutionally-mandated job of redrawing the Commonwealth’s legislative and congressional districts based on population data from the 2020 U.S. Census.
At the beginning of December, the four party leaders named the eight legislators to the commission. The lawmakers are State Senators Steve Newman (R-Bedford), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), George Barker (D-Fairfax), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), and Delegates Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond City), Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax), Les Adams (R-Pittsylvania) and Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland).
This method of redistricting is brand new to Virginia this year after voters approved a constitutional amendment on ballots in the November general election, switching the state’s redistricting process from under the General Assembly’s control to the bipartisan commission.
The commission will hold its first public meeting on February 1 and can begin preliminary work on the districts, but most of the heavy lifting will need to wait until the updated population data is delivered, which is expected to happen on or around April 1, according to the Census Bureau.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Taber Andrew Bain CC BY 2.0