The Virginia Redistricting Commission is meeting today, and their first order of business was to decide which date they should go with as the official date of “receipt” of U.S. Census data. Sen. George Barker laid out the options for when the clock starts ticking, with the Commission having up to 45 days upon official “receipt” of U.S. Census data to draw House of Delegates and State Senate district lines, and up to 60 days for U.S. House of Representatives districts. The three options considered were:
- The clock starts ticking starting on August 12, when the U.S. Census data went live, in an “old” format, which isn’t fully usable/fully formatted for the Commission to be able to use? Then, the VA House and VA Senate maps would have to be done by September 26, and the Congressional maps done by October 11.
- The clock starts ticking starting on August 26, when the Redistricting Commission will get the Census data in fully “usable” format from their contractor, “City Gate?” Then, the VA House and VA Senate maps would be due October 10.
- The clock starts ticking starting on September 30, when the US Census releases data in fully usable format? Then, the the VA House and VA Senate maps would be due as late as November 14.
As Sen. Barker pointed out, “if we pick a date other than August 12, it’s at least possible that someone could challenge us in terms of the legality of the districts that we drew.” The lawyers recommended going with 8/12 as fully defensible, but added that 8/26 is *probably* defensible in court, while 9/30 almost certainly will be sued and probably NOT defensible in court. Also note that if the Commission doesn’t finish its work within 45 days, they get another two weeks. At that point, if they don’t finish, then it goes to the Virginia Supreme Court. Del. Marcus Simon, by the way, also expressed concern about the process going into “lame duck” General Assembly territory, after the 11/2 election, and also getting politicized.
In the end, the commission voted 14-1-1 (Del. Simon the only “nay” vote) to go with 8/26 as the official “receipt” date for U.S. Census data, which means the clock starts ticking from then…
P.S. The Commission also needs racial polarization data, with a professor in New Jersey apparently working on providing that. I’m not clear when that information will be available, and to what extent it impedes the Commission’s ability to draw maps to not have that data…