RICHMOND —Republican leaders of Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday rebuffed an effort by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to strike a deal on the state’s congressional elections map before a court-imposed deadline.
According to a June ruling, the General Assembly has until Sept. 1 to redraw congressional district boundaries, which the court said illegally pack African Americans into a single district to dilute their influence elsewhere.
On Tuesday, McAuliffe (D) sent a letter to House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) requesting a meeting “to forge compromise on a plan that is agreeable to the General Assembly and can be reviewed quickly by the public and our congressional colleagues.”
McAuliffe has called a special session on redistricting for Aug. 17, but said hashing out a deal early would minimize taxpayer expense and shine a light on the map before it goes to a vote.
Howell and Norment quickly rejected the idea.
In a statement, Howell said meeting early would rob lawmakers of the ability to participate in the process from the start. He said he also prefers to wait for a court ruling on his request for an extension on the Sept. 1 deadline, to allow time for an appeal to play out.
“Redistricting is a lengthy, complicated process,” Howell said. “I agree with the Governor that the process should be open and transparent, but a meeting to work out a deal ahead of time is the opposite of that.”
Norment added said he did not believe a meeting “would be consistent with either the legislative process or the principles of model redistricting.”
McAuliffe could veto a new redistricting map passed by the General Assembly, which experts believe would give the courts the power to set district boundaries. Of the state’s 11 congressional seats, Republicans currently hold eight and Democrats three.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy declined to comment on the governor’s plans, but said he would like to limit the influence of politics on the process. Coy said although the governor supports the idea of empaneling an independent commission to draw the lines, there isn’t enough time to do that before the Sept. 1 deadline.
The challenge to the state’s congressional maps is similar to a separate challenge to a dozen Virginia House of Delegates districts. A federal three-judge panel is still deliberating in that case. Both the congressional and House district cases came on the heels of a 2013 Supreme Court decision invalidating a significant provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021, which supports nonpartisan redistricting, said he would not expect transparency from a legislative redistricting session .
“Everyone knows they’re going to come to special session with the maps already drawn,” Cannon said.