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General Assembly Passes Redistricting Amendment, Sending it to Voters

Virginia State Capitol Building
After hours of debate on the floor,  the General Assembly passed a Constitutional amendment that aims to curb gerrymandering. (Photo credit: Craig Carper/VPM News) 

The General Assembly passed a Constitutional amendment on Friday advocates say will help prevent gerrymandering after heated debate among Democratic lawmakers.

The amendment now heads to Virginia voters, who will have final say on the amendment’s fate in a ballot question this November.

The redistricting amendment creates a 16 person commission -- half lawmakers, half citizens.

That body would draw Virginia’s legislative and Congressional maps instead of lawmakers.

Advocates say it will help stop lawmakers from drawing their own maps and carving up districts for their own benefit. 

The amendment had broad bipartisan support last year, when Republicans controlled the General Assembly.

But it ran into vocal opposition from many Democrats in the House of Delegates this year, who say it doesn’t do enough to protect the interests of minorities and include them in the commission.

“When we aren’t at the table, who shall speak for us?” asked Del. Cia Price (D-Newport News), a vocal critic of the proposal. 

In the end, the amendment passed the House on a 54-46 vote, with most Democrats voting against it.

OneVirignia2021, an advocacy that has lobbied hard in favor of the amendment, said Price’s complaints could be addressed through additional legislation also passed this year. The group struck a conciliatory note in an email celebrating the bill’s passage.  

“In the end, we all want the same thing: to improve the outdated and unfair practices of Virginia’s redistricting process,” the statement said.

Among those voting against the amendment: Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. 

“We must be vigilant and adhere to an extraordinarily high standard when proceeding with permanently changing the Constitution,” Filler-Corn said in a statement. “In my opinion, this Amendment fails to meet that standard.”