I was busy this afternoon and wasn’t able to watch most of today’s Virginia General Assembly special session on the issue of racially packed House of Delegates districts that have been ordered to be redrawn. However, see below for a link to video from the House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee this afternoon, as well as video of House Democratic Leader David Toscano from the House floor. Also, I’ve included some tweets by reporters, plus a statement by Progress Virginia (see below) and one from the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.
RTD reporter Graham Moomaw tweets (in reverse chronological order)
- “Republicans are making hay over this blue ‘thumb’ in western Henrico. The light blue is GOP Del. Buddy Fowler’s district, and the part sticking out happens to cover GOP Del. John McGuire’s house”
- “Toscano bristling at what he calls Republican ‘cross-examination technique’ w/ Qs over Republicans getting drawn together. ‘I’ve given you the straight answer like three or four times now. I’ll do it again. I did not know where they were living.'”
- “At P&E hearing, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, asks first question about GOP incumbents getting drawn together. ‘I don’t know where any Republicans live,’ says Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico. ‘I’m not being sassy. I’m being honest.'”
- “Whoa. Del. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth, rolling out some friendly fire on the @VAHouseDems redistricting map. ‘It’s a self-serving political power grab. It’s gerrymandering in response to gerrymandering. It’s tit for tat.'”
- “First fight today is over timeline. Dems want to force House to come back by Sept. 12. Motion fails on 48-48 vote.”
- “Special Session II is underway. Not sure much is gonna happen, but smells like everybody is at least gettin some good BBQ out the deal.”
Daily Press reporter Reema Amin tweets (in reverse chronological order)
- “Toscano says “he never once heard” someone request a specific racial goal for their districts when map drawers set out to redraw lines.”
- “To be clear, Toscano and Bagby were in on some of the phone calls that happened during the drawing process but they have said multiple times that they weren’t in on every single phone call.”
- “Chairman Cole asked for a list of the drawers. Toscano said he doensn’t know, then said, if they don’t like the map, express your concerns.”
- “Gilbert is really pressing Toscano on who the map drawers are/who oversaw this process. Toscano has not answered the question directly.”
- “Toscano also said, he’s not sure if anyone did specifically, maybe someone did. He said he was not present for all the phone calls.”
- “Majority Leader Todd Gilbert has been questioning Toscano/Bagby on whether they used race as a factor in drawing these maps. Their response has been, goal was to address compactness. Gilbert asking which delegates asked for more/less black voters. Toscano says he doesn’t know.”
- “Bell called out the redrawing of the 95th, where the Briarfield and Carver precincts are. Both of those — which went more than 75% for Northam last year — were placed in the vulnerable 94th, represented by Del. David Yancey. Toscano says these voters needed to go somewhere.”
- “Bell said GOP found 115 things the court asked lawmakers to consider when redrawing the map. Toscano said that number sounds surprisingly high and that they focused on not making race a predominant factor. They’re going through 6-7 of these 115 points now.”
- “Toscano: ‘Del. Bell, I appreciate the cross examination technique, but I’m gonna tell you very simply — I did not know where Republicans lived, our people did not know where Republicans lived, we did not draw anybody deliberately into a district.'”
- “At P&E now, and it is tense as Del. Bell questions Del. Toscano on how this map was drawn. Apparently a couple Republican incumbents’ homes were drawn into the same districts (meaning they’d have to move to run in their current districts). Bell is pressing Toscano on this.”
- “House is about to adjourn. The bill is going to be heard in a half hour at the P&E committee. Stay tuned.”
- “‘We intend to look at it further, intend to give it additional scrutiny as the court would expect.’ — Gilbert.”
- “House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert: the Dems’ map puts four vulnerable Democrats in safe districts and weakens five incumbent Republicans. ‘This was clearly a very nakedly partisan move across the board — no question about that.'”
- “Toscano is now touting their map and doubling down on, please don’t delay. ‘It’s not a perfect map — there are no perfect maps — but it’s a map.'”
- “A breakdown: Two each by the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the minority leader in each house, and the state chairman of each of the two political parties receiving the most votes in the prior gubernatorial election. They vote in a 13th member.”
- “No response to his speech. Heretick proposed a constitutional amendment yesterday. Calls for a 13-member commission”
- “Portsmouth Democrat Stephen Heretick is calling for an independent redistricting commission. He called HIS colleagues’ proposal a ‘self-serving political power grab,’ a response of gerrymandering to gerrymandering.”
- “The House’s Privileges and Elections committee will meet this afternoon to consider the Democrats’ redistricting bill, per Laura [Vozzella]”
- “*rejected. So basically there is no set deadline for when delegates have to return to finish this redistricting business (besides Gilbert’s public promise to try, by 9/21).”
- “The vote was 48-48. Speaker Cox broke the tie; the amendment is reject. Gilbert said they could publicly commit to *trying* to return by 9/21.”
- “Democrats have proposed an amendment for this session that would force lawmakers to come back by 9/12 at the latest. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert asked the House to reject because that’s not enough time. House Minority Leader Toscano says it’s necessary to avoid a delay.”
Progress Virginia Statement on General Assembly Failure to Reverse Discriminatory Maps
Richmond, VA—Progress Virginia today expressed disappointment in the Virginia General Assembly’s failure to take substantive action today to rectify legislative district boundaries a federal court has found to discriminate against communities of color. The court has set an October 30th deadline for the legislature to finalize a new map to rectify their previous discrimination.
“Disappointingly, partisan politicians today were far more interested in how they could damage each other than working together to rectify how their discriminatory map has damaged communities of color in our commonwealth,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “Everyone should have an equal voice in our democracy, whether black, brown or white. It shouldn’t take a court order for our elected officials to fix a map that seeks to dilute the voting power of African-Americans. It’s time for conservative politicians to stop playing games and put the voters first.”
From the Virginia House Democratic Caucus:
House at an Impasse as Republicans Continue to Delay
(Richmond) – House Democratic Leader David Toscano released the following statement following the first day of the special session on redistricting called by Governor Northam.
“Given the Republicans’ lack of action today and over the past several months, it is clear we are at an impasse.
“In the 64 days since a court declared 11 districts to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, Republicans have proposed no remedies. Despite requests to Speaker Cox from myself, and a request from the court that action be shown, Republicans have failed to show any movement.
“Thanks to the decision by Governor Northam, we now have a special session. Thanks to the actions of House Democrats, including Del. Lamont Bagby and others, we now have a bill that we believe fixes the constitutional problems with the map.
“Today, Republicans had yet another opportunity to propose a map. They did not.
“Today, Republicans had an opportunity to submit amendments to our proposal. They did not.
“They also had an oppportunity to schedule public hearings and set a day to reconvene. Again, they did not.
“The Republicans’ cross-examination today was a thinly-veiled attempt to protect at all costs their seats held by politically motivated racial gerrymandering. At the end of the day, we still have an unconstitutional map and no remedies from Republicans.”