Virginia

State website: redistricting.dls.virginia.gov/2010
2010-cycle districts: State Senate, State House  « NEW 
2000-cycle districts: Congress, State Senate, State House
Primary governing law: Va. Const. art. II, § 6; Exec. Order No. 31 (2011)

The Latest

Congress: On April 12, 2011, the state House passed HB 5004, and on June 9, the state Senate passed an amended version, but the two houses reached an impasse before the 2011 elections ... when, subject to pending litigation, the Republicans (with the help of the Lieutenant Governor's tiebreaking vote) won unilateral control of the legislature. On January 20, 2012, the state legislature passed HB 251, which was signed by the Governor on January 25, and precleared on March 14. On October 2, 2013, the congressional plan was challenged in court.

State leg.: After the governor vetoed HB 5001, the legislature passed HB 5005, which was signed by the governor on April 29, 2011, and precleared on June 17.

On January 21, 2013 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), the state Senate considered for the first time and passed HB 259, modifying state legislative districts; the bill has been blocked in the state House.

  • Institution

    Redistricting political control:

    Governor State Senate State House
    Congressional lines R 20 D, 20 R 32 D, 67 R  (after 2011 elec.)
    State legislative lines R 22 D, 18 R 39 D, 59 R
    2000 cong. lines R 18 D, 22 R 34 D, 64 R
    2000 state lines R 18 D, 22 R 34 D, 64 R

    Virginia's congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto. The members of the state House committee with responsibility for redistricting are listed here; the members of the state Senate committee are listed here.

    In 2011, by executive order, the Governor created an advisory commission to solicit public input and recommend congressional and state legislative districts to the legislature, which may adopt, modify, or ignore the commission's proposals. The Governor selected five citizens of each major party who have not held elected office within the last five years, and are not now employees of Congress or the state legislature, and will select one chair who has not held public or party office and is not "identifiable with" any party. The members are here, and on the advisory commission's website. [Exec. Order No. 31 (2011)]


  • Timing

    Census data were delivered to Virginia on February 3, 2011.

    Virginia law requires that congressional and state legislative plans be drawn in the year 2011; recent litigation has determined that redistricting delayed beyond the deadline is not precluded. The regular legislative session began on January 12, 2011, and ended February 26, 2011; a special redistricting session was called on February 27, 2011, to begin meeting April 3, 2011. Candidates must file for congressional primary elections by March 29, 2012, and for state legislative primary elections by June 15, 2011. [Va. Const. art. II, § 6; Va. Code § 24.2-522(a); State Board of Elections 2011 Elections Calendar]

    Virginia law ties the drawing of congressional and state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade. [Va. Const. art. II, § 6]


  • Public input

    Because of the compressed timetable for 2011, the legislative committees responsible for redistricting held public meetings in 2010 before census data were released, as well as in 2011. Transcripts from these hearings are available here.

    The governor's advisory commission also held hearings, and issued a final report on the basis of the input it received. The commission expressly acknowledged and commended the work of participants in the redistricting competition sponsored by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University and the Public Mapping Project, and singled out the competing team of students from William & Mary Law School as particularly helpful in the commission's own work.


  • Criteria

    Like all states, Virginia must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and further requires districts to be populated equally, as nearly as is practicable. In 2011, legislative redistricting committees adopted guidelines further requiring state Senate districts to deviate no more than 2% from the average population and state House districts to deviate no more than 1% from the average; these guidelines may be changed at any time. [Sen. Comm. on Privileges & Elections, Comm. Res. No. 1; H. Comm. on Privileges & Elections, Comm. Res. No. 1]

    Virginia must also, like all states, abide by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Furthermore, because Virginia is considered a "covered jurisdiction" under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it has an obligation to submit redistricting plans to the Department of Justice or to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to ensure that the plans do not discriminate against minority communities.

    Beyond those requirements, the Virginia Constitution demands that congressional and state legislative districts be contiguous and compact. [Va. Const. art. II, § 6; Jamerson v. Womack, 423 S.E.2d 180 (Va. 1992)]

    In 2011, legislative redistricting committees adopted guidelines further asserting that districts would be based on "legislative consideration of the varied factors that can create or contribute to communities of interest," including "economic factors, social factors, cultural factors, geographic features, governmental jurisdictions and service delivery areas, political beliefs, voting trends, and incumbency considerations." [Sen. Comm. on Privileges & Elections, Comm. Res. No. 1, Comm. Res. No. 2; H. Comm. on Privileges & Elections, Comm. Res. No. 1]

    The Governor set forth somewhat different criteria for his advisory commission. His charge asks that, in addition to equally populated districts that are contiguous and compact, all districts respect political subdivision lines to the extent practicable, including dividing as few counties and cities as practicable. The charge also asks that districts preserve communities of interest to the extent possible. [Exec. Order No. 31 (2011)]


  • 2010 cycle cases

    Due to the volume of filings, information on the Virginia cases is located on a separate litigation page, here.

    For more on redistricting litigation in Virginia, see Northern Virginia Lawyer's Road to Redistricting Litigation in Virginia - 2011.


  • 2000 cycle

    In the 2000 redistricting cycle, Virginia's legislature passed a state House plan, signed on April 21, 2001, and precleared on June 15, 2001; a state Senate plan, signed on April 21, 2001, and precleared on July 9, 2001; and a congressional plan, signed on July 19, 2001, and precleared on October 16, 2001.

    The state plans were challenged in state court, and upheld. The congressional plan was challenged first in state court (the suit was withdrawn), and then in federal court, and upheld. [Wilkins v. West, 571 S.E.2d 100 (Va. 2002); Hall v. Warner, Case No. CH02-100 (Petersburg Circuit Ct.); 314 F.Supp.2d 1357 (N.D. Va. 2004); Hall v. Virginia, 385 F.3d 421 (4th Cir. 2004)]


  • Other state links

    Governor's Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting
    Virginia Redistricting Competition
    Virginia Public Access Project
    FairVote's approach to VA congressional redistricting

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