This year, for the first time, about 150 students from 13 Virginia colleges drew legislative maps in a contest aimed at showing lawmakers examples of compact districts that respect community boundaries. Six groups won cash prizes in the contest.
Legislators who drew the House and Senate maps said they glanced at the students’ proposals but that they arrived too late to get a serious look.
Later, Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Richmond) criticized colleagues for failing to give the students’ maps a closer look. He said he will introduce a bill based on a map drawn by a team of students from George Mason University.
“We’re here to do the people’s business but in viewing the legislative proposal from the Senate and House, it is clear that they put their own business first and not the people’s.”
The General Assembly, which returned to Richmond on Monday for a special session on redistricting, expects to approve the proposed maps with few alterations.
The Republican-led House of Delegates and the Democratic-controlled Senate have already agreed to vote for their own plans, and then each other’s, as part of a deal between the chamber’s leaders.
The Senate has modified its map for a third time, changing several districts. The House is expected to amend its bill. Final votes are expected Thursday.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who presides over the Senate, issued a not-so-surprising statement, attacking the Senate Democrats’ plan.
“While I expected the Democrats plan to be based on political self preservation, they exceeded my wildest expectations,’’ he said. “Their plan may be the most blatant example of political gerrymandering in recent Virginia political history.”
Bolling has for years supported the creation of a bipartisan redistricting commission to draw the lines. But Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) only created an advisory commission, whose recommendations were released to the public Monday.
“The plan introduced by Senate Democrats is an illogical and indefensible proposal that is designed to protect incumbent Democrats, weaken marginal Republican districts, place incumbent Republican senators in the same district whenever possible and draw new Senate districts in Northern Virginia that give Democrats the best possible opportunity of winning these seats,’’ he said.