RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Supreme Court unanimously approved maps for new congressional and state legislative districts that will remain in place for the next decade.
The court was put in charge of the state’s political redistricting, a once-a-decade process of redrawing electoral districts with new census data, after a bipartisan commission failed to get through partisan squabbling to come to an agreement on new political maps.
The first round of maps was submitted by two experts, one nominated by Democrats and the other nominated by Republicans, appointed by the court to help with the process. The justices held two public hearings and allowed written comments and draft maps to be submitted by Dec. 20.
“Over the past few weeks, we have listened to the voices of dozens of Virginians, read thousands of their comments, and consulted with this Court,” the experts, Sean Trende and Bernard Grofman, wrote in a Dec. 27 memo accompanying the final maps. “We have done our best to incorporate the comments that we received, and we are now pleased to present this Court with the final version of our maps for its review.”
The initial map for new congressional districts moved the 7th District, held by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), from Central Virginia to Northern Virginia. The approved 7th District moves north but does not encompass Prince William County as the first map did, but it includes Dale City and stretches from Caroline County to Madison County.
The western suburbs of Henrico County and Chesterfield County will now be in the 1st District, which is held by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), after speakers at the hearings expressed concerns over splitting communities of interest.
Members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent, so Rep. Spanberger could still run for re-election in the new 7th during next year’s midterms. One option for Spanberger could be the 1st District, where her base in the Richmond-area suburbs is now located.
Spanberger’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Virginia’s 5th District, represented by Republican Rep. Bob Good, now includes Louisa, Goochland and Fluvanna counties. The western portion of Hanover County is also now in the new 5th District.
“The Final Redistricting Maps prepared by the Special Masters are fully compliant with constitutional and statutory law applied, as the Court directed, in an apolitical and nonpartisan manner,” the justices wrote Tuesday in the order finalizing the maps.
Similar to their projections for their initial map, Trende and Grofman wrote in their memo that Democrats would have an edge to win six of the state’s 11 congressional seats, with the 2nd District being the one toss-up.
The 2nd District, represented by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) since 2019, was drawn out of the city of Norfolk and now includes Suffolk and a part of Southampton.
Democrats would be favored by six seats in the Virginia Senate, 23-17, and in the House of Delegates, 53-47, according to the memo. State legislative leaders from both parties did not respond to 8News’ requests for comment.
Hoping to end gerrymandering in Virginia, voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the bipartisan redistricting commission to oversee the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing political maps.
After months of work, the commission made up of eight lawmakers and eight citizen members reached a partisan deadlock and abandoned the effort without submitting new maps to the state legislature.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.