Va. governor calls special session to redraw districts

Va. governor calls special session to redraw districts
© Greg Nash

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Monday called a special session on Aug. 30 for the Virginia General Assembly to redraw House of Delegates districts that a court said were gerrymandered.

“It is in the public interest for the General Assembly to finalize constitutional maps as soon as possible — Virginians deserve that clarity,” Northam said in a statement. “I am calling a special session so we can focus our collective attention on doing what’s right: working together to draw lines that represent Virginians fairly.”

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled 2-1 in June that 11 House of Delegates districts were gerrymandered along racial lines. The court ordered lawmakers to redraw the lines by Oct. 30.

“Overwhelming evidence in this case shows that, contrary to this constitutional mandate, the state has sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin," Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in the majority opinion.

Last month, Republicans in the General Assembly asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay that ruling. The state GOP leaders said in their motion that the district court ignored "objective evidence of neutral redistricting decisions."

In response to Northam’s call for a special session, Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) said in a statement that the House will convene at noon on Aug. 30 but added that Republicans “fully intend to pursue” their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Drawing a map that can withstand legal scrutiny is neither a quick nor simple process,” he said in the statement. “The General Assembly must establish criteria, hold committee meetings, and gather public input from across the Commonwealth.”